50949_WKBW_7_Problem_Solvers_658x90.png

Actions

Why are ER wait times so long and what's being done to fix it?

Long ER wait times are a statewide issue
Posted at 5:53 PM, Feb 13, 2023

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Emergency rooms everywhere are busy, beds and waiting rooms full of patients waiting for care for hours on end.

"We historically framed long wait times in the ER as an ER problem, we now know that is not accurate, it's a healthcare, community problem," said Dr. Michael Mineo, Chief Medical Officer for Kaleida Health.

New York State ranked fifth among states with the longest ER wait times, with patients waiting 184 minutes on average, more than three hours, according to a 2021 study by I.T. Services at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

When are ER wait times the longest?

"Late at night or very early in the morning, it tends to be less, if you look at 5 in the morning, it's probably half an hour," said Dr. Mineo.

He says Monday mornings/afternoons are the busiest, with an influx of people who couldn't get to their doctors over the weekend.

7 News Reporter Taylor Epps checked in on Kaleida Health's website over the course of three weeks, here's what she found.

  • Tuesday, January 31at 4pm
    • Buffalo General: 60 minute+ wait
    • Oishei Children's Hospital: 60 minute+ wait
    • Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital: 60 minute+ wait
  • Sunday, February 12 at 4pm
    • Buffalo General: 60 minute+ wait
    • DeGraff Medical Park: 24 minute wait
    • Oishei Children's Hospital: 44 minute wait
    • Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital: 12 minute wait
ER Wait times at Kaleida Health hospitals on Sunday, February 12
ER Wait times at Kaleida Health hospitals on Sunday, February 12

  • Sunday, February 12 at 11:30pm
    • Buffalo General: 60 minute+ wait
    • DeGraff Medical Park: 0 minute wait
    • Oishei Children's Hospital: 60 minute+ wait
    • Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital: 60 minute+ wait
  • Monday, February 13 at 5:30am
    • Buffalo General: 60 minute+ wait
    • DeGraff Medical Park: 0 minute wait
    • Oishei Children's Hospital: 14 minute wait
    • Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital: 0 minute wait

Why is this happening?
Dr. Mineo says there are two main reasons why:

  1. It's labor intensive and requires a lot of people
  2. It's expensive and takes a lot of money to deliver care

Right now there aren't enough people or money.

NYS averages a three hour emergency room wait time
NYS averages a three hour emergency room wait time

"We historically framed long wait times in the ER as an ER problem, we now know that is not accurate, it's a health care, community problem," said Dr. Mineo.

When one part of the intricate process goes wrong, the system can collapse like a house of cards and it all culminates in delays in the ER.

What are the solutions?
Governor Kathy Hochul has been pushing to make changes here, promising to grow the healthcare workforce by 20% in the next five years.

"We're doubling down and investing an additional 1 billion dollars to address health care needs," said Governor Hochul at her 2024 budget proposal.

But is this enough? Dr. Mineo says this is a both a marathon and a sprint.

Kaleida Health officials say this is an issue of money and labor
Kaleida Health officials say this is an issue of money and labor

"All the health care systems are running at a negative budget. We need resources now. To pay our staff the money they deserve, to incentivize people to go into health care," said Dr. Mineo.

He says money is on the way from the state and federal governments to bail hospitals out in the short term. Until then, they're using creative workarounds to get people the care they need, like triaging in the waiting room.

In the long term, Dr. Mineo says the healthcare system is evolving from a "fee for service" model to a "population health" model, with hospitals working together to care for patients, no matter where they are.

"I think we're going to continue to have challenging times, but I think it's so essential to our community, that we have to get this right," said Dr. Mineo.