California emergency room wait now four hours and 34 minutes

July 27, 2010

Visiting a California hospital emergency room last year meant waiting an average of four hours and 34 minutes–two minutes longer than in 2008 and 27 minutes longer than the national average. [California Watch]

California ranks 40th in the U.S. for wait times, trailing Iowa, the state with the shortest waits, by 99 minutes.

The Golden State has 7.1 emergency departments per 1 million people, compared to an average of 19.9 among other states, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians’ 2009 National Report Card on the State of Emergency Medicine. More than 10 million people visited California emergency departments in 2007.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, Hispanics and Asians are less likely to use emergency care than whites. The three counties with the highest rate of emergency room visits are all found in the Central Valley.

Experts say the obvious: The key to cutting down emergency room visits is to improve access to primary care providers and urgent care centers.

Meanwhile, two Southern California hospitals – Loma Linda University Medical Center and San Antonio Community Hospital in Upland – are trying to cut down on waits by allowing patients with noncritical conditions to schedule emergency room visits online.

Both hospitals guarantee patients will see a health professional within 15 minutes of their appointment for a fee of $24.99.



  1. Cindy says:

    I was rushed into Twin Cities in Templetom a few years ago for an allergic reaction. I was seen almost immediately and treated very well. I was in and out within an hour and a half and wasn’t left alone for more than 10 minutes at a stretch. I received all the treatment and medication I needed to recover and my insurance paid all but about $60.00 of the cost including medications.

    (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
    • Cindy says:

      BTW, I didn’t have any special insurance. It was standard Blue Cross from my husbands employer.

      (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
      • Vagabond says:

        Cindy, maybe you think it’s just nothing special insurance but let me tell you, if you had to PAY for that insurance out of your pocket like me, It would have costs you over 1000 dollars PLUS the monthly premium of 300 dollars PLUS the 500 or more bucks (guessing at that, but it’s in line with a lot of medications) because it flew in under the 5000 dollar deductible.

        (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  2. bobfromsanluis says:

    I went to a “doc in the box” because I was not feeling well, and after they diagnosed that I had pneumonia and that my oxygen level in my blood was falling below 90%, they sent me over to Sierra Vista ER. I was taken back to an exam room in about 10 minutes, the doctor came in in about 10 minutes more, and then I was allowed to go home due to my oxygen level coming back up. I received a prescription for some antibiotics that cost me around $12, and my bill at the ER, once discounted because I had no insurance, came out to $870, minus the doctor’s fees (haven’t received that bill yet). Good service, good results, but damn, $870 for a half hour?

    (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
    • JordanJ says:

      That’s because so many uninsured including and especially illegals use the ER rather than see a private physician. Private Physicians require payment up front. ER’s have to treat everybody and anybody. We all pay 10X the cost to make up for the illegals and uninsured who don’t qualify for gov benefits.

      (6) 10 Total Votes - 8 up - 2 down
      • hotdog says:

        I suppose illegals means Mexicans, which are Hispanic. You hit on them twice, an easy target for disgruntled whites who enjoy tremendous rewards from their color and good fortune to have been born in this country.

        Didn’t you even read the story? According to the PPI of Cal Hispanics use emergency rooms less than whites. You’re sounding very tea bagish, is that your frame of reference?

        (-4) 10 Total Votes - 3 up - 7 down
        • MarkJames says:

          Hispanic’s only make up perhaps 25% of the population in CA. I would expect that they use the ER less than whites. What the PPI of Cal Hispanics fails to tell us is what the % differential is, or how many Hispanics actually pay as compared to Whites. You sure won’t ever gets those stat’s from them.
          I’m not lucky, I work 60 hours a week, I pay my taxes, I don’t collect welfare and I live here legally as did my parents and my grandparents all who fought in wars for this great nation and contributed to our social programs. You believe that our offspring shouldn’t even inherit from the hard work of their families (no inheritance passed from father to son) . You think it should all go into a socialist pot for the taking by mooches who think we all owe them a living because they breath and screw and have babies. You aren’t worth my time at the key board.

          (5) 11 Total Votes - 8 up - 3 down
        • mrcyberdoc says:

          Hey Hotdog, I really don’t care what the Cal PPI sez, I’ve been in the emergency room many times in SLO with my daughter, usually evenings, and in most cases we are the only anglos in the waiting room. The reason for the prolonged wait time depends on the seriousness of the illness. A person with a heart attack will take precedence over a kid with the sniffles. People without insurance will abuse the emergency room because they have to treat you. It becomes their doc in the box at our expense. And please, don’t think Obamacare will improve the situation.

          (6) 8 Total Votes - 7 up - 1 down
        • SLORider says:

          I love hotdog’s degenerative logic:

          “illegals” (gasp! ‘Code word’ alarm sounds!) = Mexicans = Hispanic = you must be a disgruntled and rich whitey = you are a teabagger

          Don’t be a knee-jerking goon, dog!

          “Less likely to use” does not mean that millions of illegals don’t use significant ER resources and cost billions of $$$$

          How many illegals are insured vs. whites, blacks, and Hispanic citizens? Betcha that’s another wallet shocker there, also.

          (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
        • Independent Thinker says:

          I checked out the Public Policy Institute of California’s website and what a joke as far as being “non-partisan”.
          First of all, based in San Francisco, a “Sanctuary City” that chooses to ignore Federal law as far as illegals are concerned, that should be a warning sign by itself.
          Then I looked under some of their “immigrant” articles.
          All pro-immigrant, and nowhere did I see any stats on “illegal immigrants” and their crime stats or what they cost the American taxpayer.
          Also, did you see where the longest line at Emergency Rooms are, The Central Valley!
          What a crock!

          (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
          • easymoney says:

            I too have blue cross and I pay for ALL of it. I have had to use it on occasion and pay the high deductible before any insurance actually kicks in.
            I also have to pay for all those who do not have any insurance or are not legal citizens, who visit our emergency rooms. We all who work, who pay our taxes and pay for our insurance pay for this.
            CA is broke and is having a continual economic crisis because it gives away more than it takes in. It is a perfect example of what happens when too many social handouts are given out to anyone who wants them and not enough people are paying in to cover those costs. It is simple economics 101.
            Insurance is a business, hospitals and doctors are in business, and to accept the responsibility to treat all who come through their doors regardless of ability to pay is always going to hurt in the long run.
            Maybe instead of allowing non emergency patients the option of tieing up our Emergency Rooms with minor ailments or non Emergencies. They should instead go to a health clinic or a med stop first. Those businesses are either supported by donations or require proof of payment in full upon entering before treatment. This is very similar to frivolous 911 calls that tie up several emergency agencies for non emergency issues. If those making the calls had to pay for the outcome of those frivolous responses, many would be very careful before crying wolf the next time. It is called Emergency” for a reason.
            And those who are taking the PPIC as a non partisan source for the above statistics, has to only google “actual cosst to the state of CA for illegal aliens” for some eye opening information.

            (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
    • Vagabond says:

      Well, what do you expect? Insurance is the reason.
      Because in most cases the charges are not payed for by the majority of end users.
      Take autobody repair as an example, since most body shops make a majority of their money by insurance claims, they become specialists in costing the maximum amount. does this bother the car owner? Probably not in most instances since the insurance pays the bill.
      Same thing here.
      Woe be it to someone that has to pay their own way.
      Medical costs are a political third rail too.
      Wish I Had a Loma Linda or Upland hospital near me, 24.99 sounds sweet.

      (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
      • mrcyberdoc says:

        Most doctors and hospitals do not get the full amount from insurance companies. Since a hospital accepts payments from specific insurance companies through HMO’s or PPO’s they get what the insurance “allows”, not what they charge.

        (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
        • Vagabond says:

          Then why should a paying person pay their bill in full? Do hospitals run on a “Priceline” policy?
          Name your price!

          (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  3. Saveslocounty says:

    I have had several great experiences with Marian Hospital in Santa Maria. They checked my condition within a few minutes and then sent me to the appropriate area for treatment. Very profession and really caring. On the other hand, my experience at the Arroyo Grande Community Hospital was aweful. Waited in the lobby for 30 minutes with no contact other than “just have a seat.” Since it was a back injury, I asked for a gurney to lay on to relieve the pain and told them it would be fine to leave me in the hallway. The response was that I have to wait my turn. Slow, rude and uncaring was the feeling I left with. Then drove myself to Santa Maria and was well cared for. Very surprised considering the high number of trauma cases in S.M.

    (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
  4. slow says:

    This is something that French Hospital does extremely well. My wife had to go in to the emergency room for an allergic reaction, and we were in and out in less than an hour. Obviously it will vary depending on what’s going on, but I was very impressed.

    (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down

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