A crush of uninsured patients is pushing University Hospital’s emergency care to the brink — with ER visits skyrocketing to more than 58,000 a year.
Across the United States, the sluggish economy has left more people without health insurance, forcing them to use emergency rooms — which cannot turn them away — for emergency and basic care, according to doctors, hospital officials and national experts.
But the trend has been especially pronounced at University Hospital, Louisville’s main safety-net hospital for the poor, where the ER is so consistently overwhelmed that a dozen beds have been permanently added in the hallways to handle the overflow.
“We are at our capacity and over it every day of the year. We have patients in the hallways every day,” said nurse Barbara DiMercurio, director of emergency services. “If our patient population continues to grow, there’s just going to be nowhere to put the patients.”
Total ER visits at University have jumped 75 percent — from 33,058 in 2006 to 58,010 last year. And about 55 percent of emergency room visits involve uninsured patients.
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