WAITING in the emergency room

Wednesday, May 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

There is a growing concern over emergency medical care. Sometimes the wait at an area emergency room can top six hours. Fortunately, there are alternatives.

KOTV's Sean Mossman says little things like cuts or fevers will create a logjam at a large emergency room. But newer hospitals and clinics like this one, St. Johns Minor Emergency Center, can handle those bumps and bruises with very little wait. "This is our laboratory" Dr. Steven Swyden sees his fair share of cuts, muscle strains and other injuries here at the minor emergency center. He's well aware of the long waits that often occur at large emergency rooms. He says if most of those with minor ailments would come to his clinic instead, they'd likely be out the door in an hour. "Now sometimes, because of high-flow patient loads, it takes us longer than that, but that's our goal. Generally in this clinic we'll see between 100 and 150 patients a day." The same can't be said for the big St. Johns ER at 21st and Utica. They see a similar number of patients per day, but their load is filled with gunshot wounds, heart attacks and other life-threatening ailments.

St. John senior vice president, Butch Peterson says "it may be your turn to see a physician and we can have an automobile accident show up and that would bump you and make your wait that much longer." St John is not alone; all of the big hospitals can have big backups in the waiting room. All except for Southcrest Hospital. The two-year-old hospital boasts the slogan, "ER Now", and claims to have a doctor to you within an hour. CEO Tony Young says the practice originated from a simple idea. "That it's important to folks to be seen in a timely manner, to be treated and be sent home. They don't want to spend their entire afternoon in the emergency room at Southcrest Hospital."

Tulsa's older hospitals see about double the patients of Southcrest. That's one reason for the longer wait. But, an ER visit doesn't have to take all day, if you know where to go. Part of where to go depends on when you're hurt. There are several work-related injury clinics that are faster than regular ER's. If it's late at night, you'll have to go to a big hospital, the Minor Emergency Center closes at 11 PM.