Maryland currently has the longest emergency room wait times in the country, according to Captain Ben Kaufman with Emergency Medical Services. This refers to the time spent in the ER before being admitted to the hospital or sent home.
“Our hospitals are overcrowded, our emergency rooms are taxed and Maryland is actually last in terms of how long people wait for a bed when they’re at the hospital,” said Kaufman.
Not only are walk-in patients being affected, but ambulances as well. Ambulances are waiting anywhere from 30 to 80 minutes just to get their patients a hospital bed, according to Kaufman.
As a result, Montgomery County’s Fire and Rescue Service launched a program called Direct to Triage on Feb. 1 which is focused on identifying patients who are stable enough to sit up in a chair and wait in the ER waiting room, in order to shorten the amount of time ambulance’s are waiting.
The program has already created a reduction in turnover and drop times in the past 10 days, according to Kaufman.
“It is encouraging to see so early on that we are able to get us out of there faster,” said Kaufman.
Kaufman has met with four out of the six hospitals so far to go over the expectations of EMS in regards to getting the patients off of the stretchers in the right amount of time.
While the problem falls on the hospitals, MCFRS says that they are working with the hospitals to help patients receive the correct care quicker. 60% of patients transported are priority 3 (non-emergency condition), and 10% of them meet the criteria to go to a destination other than the emergency room, according to Kaufman.
MCFRS is also working on implementing an alternative destination care program for patients who would qualify as being stable enough to go to an alternate care facility. As a part of this MCFRS is trying to create a stabilization or recovery center for mental health patients or patients who are intoxicated and seeking detox, as these patients are a large percentage of those waiting in the ER. According to Fire Chief Scott Goldstein, this would be in collaboration with Health and Human Services, Nexus Montgomery, MCFRS, Montgomery County’s Police Department, and potentially corrections as well.
“We’re just going to keep rolling with it (Direct Triage) and we think that we are going to have some decent success if we look at this on a bigger picture,” said Kaufman.