KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — No one wants to call for help in a medical crisis, and then have to wait, but it happens for any number of reasons, and even more so now. Knoxville resident, Brenda Upchurch has dealt with a number of medical issues over time, but her most recent visit to the Parkwest Medical Center left her in question about care for overall patients.
“It was very, very, very busy. Almost every seat was taken,” Upchurch said.
When Upchurch arrived at the Parkwest Medical Center, she expected to wait, but not as long as she did.
“Periodically, they would come out and get me for a chest x-ray and continue to bring me back to the lobby because they did not have a bed available,” she said.
Upchurch had difficulty breathing and after taking proper measures and seeing it wasn’t getting better, she had her husband take her to the hospital in hopes of making it to the cardiac floor for treatment. Getting there, however, was the challenge.
“It was 28 hours before I got to the actual floor in a room,” Upchurch said.
She’s not the only one who’s played the waiting game. New research found that waiting times in emergency rooms have increased by 36 percent nationwide.
When looking at wait times locally at three main hospitals: UT Medical Center, Blount Memorial Hospital and Parkwest Medical Center, each averaged between 4-6 hours. Parkwest averages just over 5 hours, but Upchurch said she and others she spoke to are seeing double that.
“I would hear people say they had already been there 20 hours and they were still sitting in chairs in the lobby, so it was kind of scary,” she said. “It almost made me feel like I was in a third-world country.”
Upchurch said she recognizes that it is a nationwide issue and while waiting for hospitals to come up with a solution, she said patients can help lessen the time for everyone.
“If it’s not an emergency, do not go to the emergency room. If you can possibly go to a walk-in clinic, please do that.”
Upchurch said she did also notice that the medical center seemed to be experiencing a staff shortage, a factor that the Emergency Care Research Institute said also related to the long wait times. The American Hospital Association estimates the overall shortage of nurses to reach 1.1 million by the end of this year.