Wherever they are in the world, emergency rooms are infamous for their wait times. Most of us have heard horror stories of people waiting several hours before receiving medical treatment or returning home without being seen. These delays can result in the condition worsening, the loss of opportunity to timely treat the condition or death.
There are many reasons why hospital wait times can be so long. In the past few years, society blamed COVID-19 surges and staffing shortages. But this problem isn’t new, and the pandemic only strained an already fragile system that can do irreparable harm to those who become victims of mistakes made at the ER. When negligence causes delays, a hospital may be liable for injuries incurred as a result of medical malpractice.
What Is Emergency Room Triage?
Emergency room triage is the process of asking questions and assessing vital signs so patients can be sorted according to who needs medical treatment the most. Who is emergent? Who is urgent? Who is able to wait? For example, between someone with a broken arm and someone with symptoms of a heart attack, the latter is likely to receive a higher triage rating because they could die without immediate medical treatment.
ERs are not first-come-first-served operations, which is to say that patients with lower triage ratings can experience long wait times if a continuous stream of patients with higher ratings arrive at the hospital.
ER Triage Errors Can Lead to Injury or Death
Ideally, triage policies and procedures keep patients from dying or becoming further injured. Like any other system, however, policies and procedures are often not perfect—which can be further complicated if the people working in the Emergency Room are less than competent.
When ER nurses and staff members fail to follow triage policies and procedures, or such policies and procedures are poorly designed, a patient can become a victim of an emergency room error that can have dire consequences for their health.
Typically, emergency room triage requires on-duty staff to do the following:
- Gather information about the patient and the symptoms they’re experiencing
- Analyze the information to assign a triage level to the patient
- Provide medical care according to the assigned triage level
- It is also typical for the provider to obtain vital information (temperature, blood pressure, etc.)
If ER staff don’t properly assess a patient’s symptoms, they can assign a patient a lower triage level than would be appropriate for their medical condition. For example, a nurse may be negligent in ensuring all the patient answers all questions about their symptoms. Under circumstances such as these, potentially deadly conditions, such as a heart attack, may be misidentified as a non-life-threatening conditions, such as a panic attack.
Were You Injured Due to an ER Delay?
If you or a loved one were injured or died because of a delay at the ER, contact Brett H. Oppenheimer, PLLC for a consultation. There’s a possibility that you may have suffered because of negligent ER procedures or policies that failed to accurately assess your triage level, causing an unnecessary delay in getting treatment.
You can recover compensation with a lawsuit when negligence was a factor in incurring damages such as new medical expenses, pain, and suffering, and lost wages during recovery. Learn more about how we can help by getting in touch with Brett H. Oppenheimer, PLLC today.
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