The final word on South Shore ER

Today the Massachusetts Department of Public Health came down with its decision on South Shore hospital, just south of Boston. I have written about the situation previously and followed up here.

The Department of Public Health report, released yesterday, ends review of a dozen complaints about the pace of care in South Shore’s emergency room since last year. It found that emergency room staff at the Weymouth hospital wrongly delayed treatment for two patients with appendicitis earlier this year because they did not monitor the women’s pain closely enough, and cited the hospital for one relatively minor violation, dispensing drugs without a written prescription.

As I have written before, waiting endless hours at the emergency room is not the fault of the hospital, but rather is a reflection of a larger problem. Patients who bristle at the long ER waits have to understand that the ER is not a place for primary care, nor for convenient care. It needs to be reinforced to patients that the ER is for “emergent” care – not for medication refills and the like.

It is distressing that the media chooses to highlight the sensational aspects of the case and when the hospital is cleared of wrongdoing, provides sarcastic headlines (“South Shore Hospital gets wrist slap . . .”). It would be more helpful to highlight the larger crisis and help educate the public in proper use of emergency care. But I guess that doesn’t sell papers.

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