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Valleywise doctor says ER has major delays in testing & waiting times

Telemedicine in emergency rooms leading to faster diagnoses
Posted at 6:05 PM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 22:29:25-04

PHOENIX — An emergency room doctor in Phoenix said his hospital has been seeing several delays -- in waiting times and testing.

Dr. Murtaza Akhter is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix and an ER doctor at Valleywise Health in Phoenix.

He said one of the biggest issues they've been seeing recently is that people in the ER are waiting several hours--sometimes more than 24 hours--to be admitted and get a bed.

"Even if the cases are sort of plateauing, that doesn't mean that people are being discharged very rapidly. So a lot of people--especially the sickest ones--are staying a long time in the hospital," he said.

Dr. Akhter said it's especially challenging for Valleywise because the public hospital serves vulnerable patients.

"If you're uninsured and in particular, an undocumented migrant, you don't feel like you have anywhere else to go. You come to us, or that's it. So if our ER or hospital gets backed up or delayed, sometimes people go home without being seen," said Dr. Akhter.

Dr. Akhter shared a story of one of his patients who was sick with the coronavirus and had heart failure. She'd been waiting for so long, she decided to go home to her family.

"We're like 'listen, you're pretty sick, we think you should come to the hospital.' And she said, 'I think I'm going to die, I'd rather die at home than in the hospital.'"

This week, the hospital ran out of rapid COVID-19 tests. They now have to wait up to a day to get results back.

"A day is a long time for the emergency department if I have a patient I need to admit him or her, I need to know within a couple of hours which unit to send him or her to."

Dr. Akhter said recent state case numbers are encouraging, but people still need to do their part with masks and social distancing.

"I'm optimistic the numbers are getting better, and I hope they'll continue to, but I'm a little pessimistic as to how people will view those data, and I feel like if they let loose, we'll go back to where we started, which we don't want," said Dr. Akhert.