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ER wait times: Carolinas Medical Center-Blue Ridge fare well with state, nation averages
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ER wait times: Carolinas Medical Center-Blue Ridge fare well with state, nation averages

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ProPublica, a nonprofit journalism organization, used nationwide data the federal government recently released to compare hospitals across the nation. The comparisons are on averages for how long patients wait in an ER before seeing a doctor, how long they wait in the ER before being sent home, how long a patient with a broken bone had to wait before receiving pain medicine and how long a patient had to wait before being admitted and taken to a hospital room, according to the ProPublica information. The participating hospitals do so voluntarily but there is a financial incentive to send the data, according to ProPublica.

The data ProPublica compiled says the average time patients spent in the emergency room before being seen by a doctor at CMC-Blue Ridge is 39 minutes. The state average is 34 minutes, while the national average is 26 minutes. CMC-Blue Ridge says its most recent data from Dec. 1 and after, the wait time for its Morganton hospital is 30 minutes and its Valdese hospital is 17 minutes.

The average time patients with broken bones had to wait before they received pain medication at CMC-Blue Ridge is 59 minutes, compared to the state average of 67 minutes and the national average of 57 minutes.

CMC-Blue Ridge patients waited an average of two hours, one minute in the emergency room before being sent home. The Morganton hospital beat the state average of 2 hours, 32 minutes and the national average of two hours, 14 minutes. CMC-Blue Ridge says its most recent data from Dec. 1 and after, the average wait time before being sent home from its Morganton hospital is two hours, seven minutes and from its Valdese hospital is one hour, 27 minutes.

Among patients admitted, additional time patients of CMC-Blue Ridge spent waiting before they were transferred to a hospital room is two hours, 31 minutes. The state average is one hour, 47 minutes and the national average is one hour, 38 minutes, according to the data.

However, the average ER wait time before being admitted to the hospital at CMC-Blue Ridge is five hours, 17 minutes. The state average is five hours, while the national average is four hours, 34 minutes. ProPublica notes the data submitted was based on a sample of cases/patients. CMC-Blue Ridge says its most recent data from Dec. 1 and after is the wait time for the Morganton hospital is four hours, 20 minutes and the Valdese hospital is three hours, 55 minutes.

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The percentage of patients who arrived at CMC-Blue Ridge with stroke symptoms but did not receive brain scan results within 45 minutes was 45 percent. The national average is 57 percent and the state average is 40 percent.

The percentage of patients who left the emergency room without being seen by a doctor at CMC-Blue Ridge is 2 percent, with the average in the state being 3 percent and 1 percent nationwide.

David Everhart, Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge emergency services director, said all of the wait times for the system have gone down.

With the recent transition of inpatient services to the Morganton campus, we increased the capacity of inpatient beds available. This has allowed us to provide patients with inpatient beds faster, and as a result, ED rooms are available faster on both campuses.

When we first announced transforming Valdese into an outpatient health center, we said the transformation would allow us to provide the right kind of care for our patients at the right place, all while being more efficient,” Everhart said. “Our emergency department wait times (are) evidence of our commitment to the community to provide quality, patient-centered, and efficient, care.”

The system’s emergency department and ancillary services, such as lab and radiology, have been working together to identify opportunities to improve the patient experiences, Everhart said. He said one opportunity identified includes repositioning some of the system’s staff, which has had a positive impact on wait times.

Everhart said in the coming months, the system has plans for two projects that will build on decreasing wait times even more at its emergency departments.

Some community hospital, such as Wilkes Regional Medical Center and McDowell Hospital, have better times than the state and national average and certainly better than some of the larger medical centers in the state, according to ProPublica.

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