Hospital responds to community feedback

Published 7:20 pm Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Over the last few weeks, we’ve published several letters to the editor from residents who had a story to share about an unsatisfactory visit to the WellStar West Georgia Medical Center emergency room.

Those letters spurred conversation, with many people discussing it on social media and sending us messages about positive or negative experiences at the hospital.

Just like any business, the hospital can have its good and bad days, depending on what’s going on behind the scenes.

In Tuesday’s paper, we wrote a story about the hospital’s emergency room and how it operates. In short, new ER director David Ferner has evaluated ways to make the ER run more smoothly, so that patients can be seen quicker.

That’s what everyone wants, right? It’s the equivalent to going to a restaurant and sitting down, waiting on a waiter to bring you a menu.  After a few minutes with no drinks, nothing to look at and no attention, anyone would be ready to give up and go somewhere else.

Of course, comparing a hospital to a restaurant simplifies it too much. It’s not life or death if someone gets a dinner menu, but the overall point of waiting remains the same. As humans, we hate to wait. Time is valuable and unfortunately nobody has enough of it.

So, Ferner and other administrators developed a plan to place a triage nurse in the ER during peak hours, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day. That nurse can evaluate patients in the lobby and monitor anyone waiting.

Patients are now being evaluated quicker, even if they are then spending time in the lobby. Just being seen and getting the process started helps.

Through its internal research, the hospital found that it was effective at getting fast-track patients in and out fairly quickly. Those patients might have a minor wound or need a prescription. Not surprisingly, the hospital also had no problem getting critically ill patients back to receive potentially life-saving treatment.

The problem — and its not an issue that only WellStar was facing — was that patients falling in the middle were the ones usually waiting the longest.

Those patients have stable vital signs, so their life isn’t in danger. However, they are dealing with a crisis and need to be seen quickly.

The ER has been working toward lowering those wait times, including dedicating extra beds to those patients.

The truth is that there’s no fix to end emergency room wait times. No matter how many physicians are available, you may have to wait. It’s a fluid environment where a lot can change in just a couple of minutes.

However, it is a positive for the community that the hospital is listening, taking in its feedback and trying to better its emergency room service. That’s all anyone can ask for.