Every day is a busy day for the emergency room staff at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. Dr. Marilyn Gifford, the Medical Director, says she’s seen a growing number of people making trips to the ER, especially in the last ten years. The staff sees patients for everything from scraped knees to severe injuries.
"We have been called the safety net of American medicine and to a large extent, that's true," said Dr. Gifford. "Some of what we do as primary care is done because they can't get it done any place else. They can't see anybody else."
That’s what brought 19-year-old Shantae Chitmon to the ER. She was suffering from debilitating migraines and she did not have insurance.
"I didn't have a doctor, so my first thought was – ER," said Chitmon.
It was a frustrating process that led to multiple visits… always with long waits.
"I waited with my eyes closed cause light hurt it so bad,“ she said. “So, I waited for quite a while."
According to Colorado Hospital Association Records, Memorial has historically had the busiest ER in the state. They treated more than 120,000 patients just last year, many of them without insurance. And the more people in the ER, the more you’re going to wait.
"Every minute we slow down one person's time on the emergency department, the guy out in the waiting room waits that much longer," said Dr. Gifford.
So emergency rooms are trying to get the word out… the ER should be used for emergencies only.
"If it's been going on for 3 months, it's probably not an emergency today... unless something changed today,” said Dr. Gifford. “That's something they should follow up with their own doctor with."
Shantae no longer needs to use the ER for primary care. Through Peak Vista, a local non-profit health provider, she has found a regular doctor.
"He told me if I have any migraines anything just give him a call,” she said. “He said he'll be sure to see me and see what's going on."
That means no more long waits in the ER for her… and maybe a shorter wait for you.
If you don’t have insurance, see the link below for information on how Peak Vista can help you.
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