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Patients have long waits at boro’s emergency rooms Electeds explain slowness of urgent care at state’s hospitals, which rank among worst in U.S. survey

Freshman state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) called New York state’s low ranking on a health-care industry study ranking emergency department wait times “unacceptable.”

The Empire State has one of the longest wait times in the country, with most visitors in 2009 waiting an average of 296 minutes — nearly five hours — in the ER or emergency department.

“[The] study really just emphasizes what many elected officials have been saying all along in western Queens,” Simotas said.

Press Ganey, an Indiana-based management consulting firm that surveys the health-care industry, created the report, titled “Pulse Report 2010: Emergency Department: Patient Perspectives on American Health Care.” The report surveyed 1.5 million patients about their experiences in 1,900 emergency departments throughout the United States, and on one page ranked states by emergency department wait times — the first having the lowest waiting times and the 50th having the highest wait times.

New York tied exactly with Mississippi in the ranking at 46, the report said. In both states, customers waited an average of 296 minutes in 2009. Iowa came in first with the lowest 2009 wait average of 175 minutes, or almost three hours. Utah came in 50th with a 2009 average wait time of 497 minutes, or more than eight hours, the report said.

The report said New York’s average of 296 minutes of wait time was an 18-minute increase from its average wait time in 2008.

The results of the report did not surprise City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), whose district encompasses Elmhurst Hospital Center at 79-01 Broadway in Elmhurst.

“I’ve seen wait times up to that long and even longer,” Dromm said.

Simotas said the report’s findings were consistent with what she had heard in her district. She said that while they were happy with the care they had received, many of her constituents had complained about the long wait times at Mt. Sinai Hospital, at 25-10 30th Ave. in Long Island City.

“It is a common cry that I hear, day in and day out,” she said.

Simotas said this had nothing to do with the staff of Mt. Sinai, but rather the space and the equipment. She said she has been in contact with the hospital, which has plans for two different expansions and is looking for federal, state or city funds to bring these projects to fruition.

“We have sufficient staff and we have fantastic doctors,” she said.

Dromm also had praise for the staff of Elmhurst Hospital. He said he believed the problem came from many residents not having coverage and using the emergency department as a primary care facility. He said he had recently allocated $1 million for a chest pain observation unit to see patients instead of having them go to the emergency room.

“Really, the underlying problem is many people do not have coverage,” he said.

Yet Simotas said the population of Astoria is growing, with many young families moving to the area, and the neighborhood needs a state-of-the-art medical facility.

“Sometimes I think investing in infrastructure is not something people put on top of the priority list,” she said.

Dromm suggested opening more primary care centers in the area. He said either that or nationalized health care would solve this problem.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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