Crowded Emergency Rooms Are An Increasing Concern

ARKANSAS (KFSM) -- It has become a problem almost as big as this year's flu season.

During the past few years, area hospitals have had an increase in the number of people who go to emergency rooms when they don't need to.

Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith has seen a 21 percent increase within the past three years.

Bobbie Lamb is the emergency services director at Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith. She said it's more than a convenience than anything else. She also said trips to the ER will get costly.

"People aren't set up with a primary doctor sometimes. The ER is just the easiest place to go and get treatment," Lamb said.

The problem with that is that it causes long wait times in the ER.

"You have kind of a saturation point. The size of your department and the number of physicians we have enable us to treat a certain number of patients. Once we get passed the number of patients... volume has grown to a point (that) it's no longer manageable.

Doctor Matthew Dupree is the emergency room medical director at Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith. He said if someone has sniffles or a common cold, don't go to the ER.

During this year's flu season, Mercy Hospital opened a temporary flu clinic. More than 2,000 patients were treated at the clinic while it was open.