When the ER is your primary-care doctor


From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com

Memorial Hospital, in the old mill town of Pawtucket, R.I., may have been too uneconomic to remain open as a full community hospital  but state officials and others could have done a better job anticipating that closing Memorial, with  its disproportionately sick and low-income clientele, would overwhelm the emergency rooms of the Miriam Hospital and Rhode Island Hospital. One reason is that America has about the most fragmented (and expensive) health-care  “system’’ in the Developed World, which leads all too many patients – especially low-income ones --  to use hospital emergency rooms as their main source of health care. That’s a notably inefficient and expensive way of  getting care!

Presumably the proliferation of free-standing emergency departments  and drugstore-chain clinics will eventually reduce the severe crowding in hospital emergency rooms in coming years. So would public-education campaigns to discourage people from using hospital ERs for such routine ailments as pink eye and bad colds