ER wait times: What's causing the holdup?

What's the holdup with wait times at the ER?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- We've all been there: A loved one gets hurt and your next stop is the closest emergency room. But what happens when instead instead of being treated you're left to sit and wait?

First Coast News looked at which local hospitals have the longest wait times and hospital officials shared some insight on what's causing the hold up.

"52 percent of the patients in this hospital (UF Health Jacksonville) are considered charity care," said Steven Godwin, head of UF Health Jacksonville's emergency medicine department.

"That is the second highest in the whole state."

Their ER wait time is among the worst in Florida. But Godwin says there's a reason for that, "We have a very large unfunded population that doesn't have a lot of access to care."

According to information hospitals are now required to report, UF Health's average ER wait time is an eye-popping 58 minutes. At the other end of the spectrum is Orange Park Medical Center, with an average wait time of 12 minutes, which is among the state's lowest.

Nonprofit investigative news organization Pro Publica created an online database of ER wait times based on federally available data.

They show waits ranging from just minutes at Orange Park and Memorial to nearly an hour at St. Vincent's two locations and UF Health.

  • Orange Park Medical: 12 minutes

  • Memorial: 18 minutes

  • Baptist Beaches: 28 minutes

  • Baptist Downtown: 34 minutes

  • Flagler Hospital: 35 minutes

  • St. Vincent's Clay County: 52 minutes

  • St. Vincent's Medical Center: 53 minutes

  • UF Health Jacksonville: 58 minutes

Health officials say wait times increase with the number of uninsured patients who are often in poor health and rely on the ER for primary care.

Kurtis Uffelman was once homeless in the River City and says he had no choice but to turn to emergency rooms for care.

"If you don't have the insurance coverage to have the follow up and everything to go with that, it gets to be, um, you don't know where to turn," said Uffleman.

Amy Riley, director of emergency services at Memorial, says it's a constant battle keeping wait times down. She's watched as things have turned around at Memorial.

"We started four years ago with our stat room process and that worked out really well," said Riley.

"It's important that you know how to stream patients," explains Frederick Jenkins, Memorial's emergency department medical director. He says virtually all emergency rooms care for the uninsured.

In 2014, Memorial treated approximately 25,000 uninsured patients in its ER, providing more than $27 million in uncompensated care.

Over the same span, UF Health provided over $42 million in charity care.

But still there are those left to wander in search of stability, treated and let go, left to repeat a dangerous cycle.

"It's a big complicated mess to sort out for anyone," said Uffleman, who now qualifies for a program through UF Health where he can receive his health care with local clinics.

ER wait times fluctuate often. What we've shared with you tonight is an average. You can call a hospital directly or check online for their most current wait times.

St. Vincent's has a wait at home ER system. Instead of waiting in an emergency room for your name to be called, you can check-in online and wait at home.


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