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August 4, 1975

Medical News

JAMA. 1975;233(5):399-407. doi:10.1001/jama.1975.03260050005001

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Can emergency rooms be humane  ?The ever-increasing workload of hospital emergency departments is imposing strains on everybody, from patients who may have to wait too long to staff members who often think many of the patients should have gone someplace else with their respiratory infections and depressions.The staff members try their best and this usually means doing things fast, trying not to think too much except about the task at hand—and from there it is only a short step to what patients and visitors refer to as acting in a machine-like (or cold, or inhuman) manner.What can one do? An estimated 120 to 150 million persons visited emergency rooms in 1974 and the total will go up 10% this year. Only about 5% of the patient visits lead to actual admissions in most hospitals, and nobody is happy about the way things are, neither patients, staff members, administrators,