The average time that hospital emergency room patients wait to see a doctor has grown from about 38 minutes to almost an hour over the past decade, according to new federal statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
"There are more people arriving at the ERs. And there are fewer ERs," said Dr. Stephen Pitts, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Emory University and the lead author of the federal report.
Overall, about 119 million visits were made to U.S. emergency rooms in 2006, up from 90 million in 1996 -- a 32% increase. Meanwhile, the number of hospital emergency departments dropped to fewer than 4,600, from nearly 4,900, according to American Hospital Assn. statistics.