JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Alecia Fuller was discharged from UF Health Jacksonville with a fractured elbow Wednesday afternoon. She sat down with Action News just minutes later to discuss her experience.
"I arrived at the ER and saw a number of nurses, but it was several hours before I actually saw a doctor."
Fuller arrived by ambulance and expected quick treatment.
"They took me to a waiting room and I asked the nurse what was taking so long and she said they were waiting on a room."
Her story is more common than hospitals want to admit.
Action News examined records from the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services Hospital Comparison Database, and found average wait time for UF Health Jacksonville's emergency room was 78 minutes between April 2012 and March 2013, more than three times the state average of 26 minutes. We also learned that 10 percent of ER patients left there leave without ever being seen.
We compared those numbers to other area hospitals, like St. Vincent's Medical Center on the Southside, and found the wait time was 38 minutes during the same time period.
"It just is busier and busier at all ERs across the country," said President Kyle Sanders.
Sanders says managing patients and paperwork has become more of a challenge in the past year, so in an effort to reduce the wait, the St. Vincent's Health Care system recently launched an online emergency room reservation system called WaitAtHomeER.com. Patients with non-life-threatening medical conditions can select their appointment time and be seen by a doctor within 15 minuets of their arrival.
"It's scary anyway when you need to go to the emergency department, patients don't feel well, and this gives them the ability to manage some of that. Patients fill out information about their condition and we have keywords built into the system as a safety feature, so when we can advise them when they shouldn't wait any longer for treatment."
The Baptist Health system is also taking action to streamline processes that typically affect wait times at all six of its emergency care locations in northeast Florida. The database reflects a 54 minute wait time during the same time period for the downtown location.
"We treat approximately 250,000 ER patients each year throughout the system and that number is growing," says Darin Roark, Administrator for Baptist Clay and head of Emergency Services. "Over the past two years we have been focused on improving staffing patterns, lab turn aroundturnaround time, and our ER patients are only treated by physicians. This has led to an improvment in patient satisfaction scores, and we feel confident the next set of data will reflect improved wait times for our patients."
At Orange Park Medical Center, the wait time was listed as 24 minutes, two minutes below the state average.
"Our patients can pre-register online or via their mobile phone before coming into the ER," says Spokesman David Goldberg. We"We have 44 patient rooms to service the growing population in Clay County and surrounding us. We also have the current wait time posted on our website, which is updated every few minutes, so patients know what to expect."
OPMC also advertises that wait time on local billboards, as does Memorial Hosptial.
"We have one of the best wait times in the business," said Spokesman Adam Landau of the 20-minute record. "We want to make sure the patient experience is as pleasant as possible."
UF Health in Jacksonville is the only trauma one center in Northeast Florida. The hospital reports treating 91,000 patients a year in the ER, including 4,000 in the trauma center alone. Patients are treated in order of their condition, with life-threatening medical conditions, such as gunshot wounds or victims of car accidents, being seen first.
A spokesman confirms to Action News that the UF Health ER recently underwent partial renovations and administration is looking into doing more to help with patient flow. We were provided with the following statement:
“There are many different factors that go into how quickly a patient is seen or treated, from the number of people who come to our hospital for care to the severity of their condition. Our goal is to see all patients as quickly as possible and to get them the best care in the most timely fashion, and if need be to admit them to our hospital. Our emergency department is one of the busiest, if not the busiest in northeast Florida, and many times people come to us for issues that can be handled in a non-emergency environment. Regardless, we are dedicated to providing care for everyone who comes through our doors.”
Fuller hopes all local hospitals will continue their efforts to reduce wait times for patients like her.
"That's the purpose of an emergency room -- to try to see you as quick as possible, so I'd like to see them try to do as much as they can to improve the experience."