HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - After concern over wait times in the emergency center at Forrest General Hospital, officials said they had to put together a new plan to keep patient care moving.
Dr. John Nelson, Medical Director of FGH, said the new process started in April. During busy times, patients are triaged and after receiving appropriate emergency care, they may be asked if they mind being moved to another location to free up a room so other patients can be seen by a doctor.
An upset patient, Marita Hall, called WDAM 7 to express her concern after her trip to the ER last week for bad headaches. She said she was placed in a hallway to be discharged, with an IV still in her arm.
Hall said she was concerned with sanitation and receiving her personal health information, like test results, in an open hallway with other patients.
"That's a lot to deal with," Hall said. "You're already dealing with your health and you have to sit out in the hall where you got to discuss your health in front of other people, that's not professional."
We reached out to Forrest General with Hall's concerns. Dr. Nelson said all patients are asked before they are moved from a private room.
"After a patient is seen and their emergency needs are addressed, if we need that room for another patient, they are asked if they mind waiting in another area," Nelson said. "Sometimes that is a hall or a waiting room. 90% of the time they say sure, if that helps somebody else."
Nelson said it doesn't make a difference when it comes to cleanliness, moving from a hallway to a room in an emergency center. When it comes to personal health information, all patients are given the option to go back into a room.
"If they are sensitive about it and want to stay in a room, they can," Nelson said. "They are always asked, would you mind moving out in the hall so we can treat someone just as sick if not sicker than you?'"
Nelson said when he came up with the process, two things were the focus - efficiency and decreasing wait times.
"Our door to provider time has gone down anywhere from 20 to 50 percent on a given day, there are rarely any patients in the waiting room," Nelson said. "We move a patient directly into a room and they are seen and they're emergent needs are addressed right then."
Since implementing the new process, here are the changes to the average wait times:
- Patient to see nurse upon arrival: 13 minutes to 2 minutes
- Time to be placed in a room: 30 minutes to 9 minutes
- Time to be seen by a provider: 38 minutes to 28 minutes
"What we are trying to do is what's best for everyone. I can tell you the number of complaints about anything have gone down 95% since we started this process," Nelson said. "We are about 55 days in and it has been amazing what its done for us with patient care."
Dr. Nelson said Forrest Health's Emergency Centers provides around-the-clock emergency coverage for major trauma, general medical treatment and all other emergency care.
Last year, the emergency center saw over 81,000 patients and Nelson expects that number to be closer to 85,00 in 2017. With this change in policy, the emergency center has been able to see over 250 patients a day.
Forrest General said this process is a temporary solution, with plans to expand the ER department to begin sometime this year.
"I've been here since 1979, have been the Medical Director since 1982," Nelson said. "This one of the most exciting things we've ever done."