Infants Taken to Emergency Room in Tri-Cities Almost Twice the State Average
KENNEWICK, Wash. -- "When people use the ER for non emergent needs, we all lose," said Susan Campbell, registered nurse instructor for WSU Tri-Cities and a member of the Tri-Cities Health Access Team.
Campbell says there's an alarming trend happening at all three of our major hospitals. "What our data is showing is that the non emergent needs that are being seen in our ER's are mainly pediatric. So does that mean that we need more clinics specific to pediatrics? I don't know."
Based on MediCal groupings, between Kennewick General Hospital, Kadlec Regional Medical Center and Lourdes Medical Center, the rate for infants being brought in for non emergencies like sore throats, and ear and upper respiratory infections was 11% in 2012, consisting of 1,766 infants. The number is almost twice the state average of 6%
Dr. Louis Koussa, an emergency room doctor at Kennewick General Hospital says he does see a lot of infants and children, but others who don't need to be there as well.
"It's a little scary I'm sure, particularly for younger parents or first time parents who don't know what to expect and don't want to make an under-judgement. So they chose to error in the side of safety where everything is available to them should they be needing it," said Koussa.
Koussa says several things play a factor in parents bringing in children. "some of our parents are not educated enough as to what their alternatives are, so people don't know that there are urgent care walk in clinics that might better handle that particular problem," he said.
Otherwise, he says outside factors can play a role. Koussa says there can be a long wait to see primary care physicians and often times doctors are not taking on new patients. He adds that the hours and convenience of emergency rooms make it easier for busy and working parents. Koussa said there are even some insurance options actually cover emergency room visits but not regular doctor visits.
Koussa says if they see about 100 patients in a day, about 40-50 of them are going in for non-emergency needs like ear infections, pink eye, upper respiratory infections and back pain. And then the bills they get are often times very high because it take into affect all the hospital equipment in the ER and the extra staff.
In turn, many don't pay the bills. "The hospital writes it off and eats it unfortunately physician groups aren't able to write off their bad debt so the physicians eat. We'll see and collect only 33% of our billings," said Koussa who manages a physician's group for KGH.