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When every minute counts: Ranking E.R wait times

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ATLANTA – A simple trip to the emergency room can end with patients and family members feeling a lot better. But, it can also turn into an endless wait for patients who sometimes have little choice over where to go for care.

The CBS46 Bulldog decided to investigate the issue of wait times in local emergency rooms. We started by picking six of the busiest hospitals in metro Atlanta and dug through the most up-to-date Medicare data that spans from 2015-2017.

Emergency room wait times are tracked by injury and severity, but Medicare also looks at median wait times. Every hospital analyzed for this story is classified as either high or very high volume, which means they see more than 40,000 patients a year.

The median wait time nationwide to be seen? 22 minutes.

Georgia's average? 25 minutes.

Out of the six hospitals we picked; the two with the longest waits were Grady Hospital and WellStar Atlanta Medical Center. Grady checked in at 42 minutes, nearly twice the national average. Grady also had the largest number of patients walk out without being seen.

UPDATE 2/8/19: Grady contacted CBS46 and said that since the numbers were gathered, they have opened a new emergency department and decreased wait times. Grady said it's current door to doctor time is 11 minutes and only one percent of patients are now leaving prior to being seen.

WellStar Atlanta Medical Center had an average wait time of 34 minutes. WellStar Atlanta Medical Center had the longest wait for patients specifically with broken bones, making them sit for an average of 71 minutes.

Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center and Grady Hospital are both considered "very high" volume hospitals, meaning they see over 60,000 patients per year which will also impact the wait time at the hospital.

UPDATE 2/8/19: Wellstar contacted CBS46 and said that since the numbers were gathered by Medicare, the center has placed a nurse at the front desk so patients can be immediately evaluated. The providers also said that Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center is "finishing renovations to its Emergency Department and instituting a new process in the next 2 weeks, which should cut in half the time it takes to see a healthcare professional."

On the other end of the spectrum, Emory Midtown had the lowest wait time with a median wait time of just 14 minutes.

But patient advocate Cindi Gatton said the numbers only tell so much.

"Judging wait times and quality depends on who you ask," she said.

That means everyone's definition of quality is different, from doctors to patients to insurance companies. Still, Gatton said at ERs in general, “you wait, and you can wait a long time,” depending on time of day and who seeks care there. "Lots of folks use the E.R as their primary care practice," Gatton said.

She recommends using less costly urgent care facilities first. where doctors can, "make a determination do you really need to be seen at a hospital." And if so, then go. That could save you not only money, but as we found, depending on where, valuable time.

During our investigation, we reached out to all the hospitals mentioned. Since then, some of those hospitals have reached out to say their numbers have improved since the data was last published.

Hospital Location Median wait time before being seen by medical staff Median time to acquire painkillers for broken bones Percent of patients leaving without treatment Volume of patients
Appling Hospital Baxley, GA 26 minutes 60 minutes 0% Low
AU Medical Center Augusta, GA 50 minutes 56 minutes 4% Very High
Augusta VA Medical Center Augusta, GA NA NA NA NA
Bacon County Hospital Alma, GA 36 minutes 38 minutes NA NA
Bleckley Memorial Hospital Cochran, GA 20 minutes 67 minutes 2% Low
Brooks County Hospital Quitman, GA 17 minutes 38 minutes NA NA
Burke Medical Center Waynesboro, GA 30 minutes 33 minutes 2% Low
Candler County Hospital Metter, GA NA NA NA NA
Candler Hospital Savannah, GA 23 minutes 38 minutes 5% Very High
Cartersville Medical Center Cartersville, GA 7 minutes 29 minutes 0% High
Chatuge Regional Hospital Hiawassee, GA 27 minutes 60 minutes 1% Low
Chestatee Regional Hospital Dahlonega, GA 25 minutes 53 minutes 2% Low
Chi Memorial Hospital Fort Oglethorpe, GA 21 minutes 55 minutes NA NA
Clinch Memorial Hospital Homerville, GA 27 minutes 74 minutes 1% Low
Coffee Regional Medical Center Douglas, GA 26 minutes 42 minutes 2% Medium
Coliseum Medical Centers Macon, GA 5 minutes 23 minutes 1% Very High
Coliseum Northside Hospital Macon, GA 5 minutes 26 minutes 1% Medium
Colquitt Regional Medical Center Moultrie, GA 18 minutes 48 minutes 1% Medium
Cook Medical Center Adel, GA 22 minutes NA 3% Low
Crisp Regional Hospital Cordele, GA 23 minutes 52 minutes 1% Medium
Decatur (Atlanta) VA Medical Center Decatur, GA NA NA NA NA
Dekalb Medical Center Hillandale Lithonia, GA 45 minutes 70 minutes 3% Very High
Doctors Hospital Augusta, GA 7 minutes 24 minutes 1% Very High
Dodge County Hospital Eastman, GA 19 minutes 49 minutes 1% Low
Donalsonville Hospital Inc Donalsonville, GA 35 minutes 61 minutes 4% Low
Dorminy Medical Center Fitzgerald, GA 19 minutes 46 minutes 3% Low
Dublin VA Medical Center Dublin, GA NA NA NA NA
East Georgia Regional Medical Center Statesboro, GA 22 minutes 55 minutes 6% High
Eastside Medical Center Snellville, GA 5 minutes 37 minutes 2% Very High
Effingham Health System Springfield, GA 34 minutes 75 minutes 2% Low
Elbert Memorial Hospital Elberton, GA 18 minutes 36 minutes 2% Low
Emanuel Medical Center Swainsboro, GA 30 minutes 62 minutes 2% Low
Emory Johns Creek Hospital Johns Creek, GA 32 minutes 49 minutes 2% Medium
Emory University Hospital Atlanta, GA 22 minutes 67 minutes 5% High
Emory University Hospital Midtown Atlanta, GA 14 minutes 40 minutes 3% Very High
Evans Memorial Hospital Claxton, GA 36 minutes 66 minutes 2% Low
Fairview Park Hospital Dublin, GA 6 minutes 26 minutes 0% High
Fannin Regional Hospital Blue Ridge, GA 15 minutes 48 minutes 2% Low
Flint River Community Hospital Montezuma, GA NA NA NA NA
Floyd Medical Center Rome, GA 28 minutes 60 minutes 2% Very High
Gordon Hospital Calhoun, GA 16 minutes 60 minutes 1% Medium
Grady General Hospital Cairo, GA 42 minutes 68 minutes 3% Low
Grady Memorial Hospital Atlanta, GA 42 minutes 69 minutes 7% Very High
Gwinnett Medical Center Lawrenceville, GA 35 minutes 49 minutes 3% Very High
Habersham County Medical Center Demorest, GA 21 minutes 53 minutes 1% Medium
Hamilton Medical Center Dalton, GA 39 minutes 49 minutes 4% Very High
Higgins General Hospital Bremen, GA 20 minutes 28 minutes 2% Low
Houston Medical Center Warner Robins, GA 22 minutes 65 minutes 2% Very High
Irwin County Hospital Ocilla, GA 10 minutes 28 minutes 2% Low
Jasper Memorial Hospital Monticello, GA 15 minutes 50 minutes 1% Low
Jeff Davis Hospital Hazlehurst, GA 26 minutes 65 minutes 6% Low
Jefferson Hospital Louisville, GA 27 minutes 62 minutes 2% Low
Jenkins County Medical Center Millen, GA 20 minutes 28 minutes 1% Low
John D. Archbold Memorial Hospital Thomasville, GA 30 minutes 70 minutes 5% Medium
Liberty Regional Medical Center Hinesville, GA 41 minutes 81 minutes 2% Medium
Lifebrite Community Hospital of Early Blakely, GA 6 minutes 58 minutes NA NA
Meadows Regional Medical Center Vidalia, GA 21 minutes 46 minutes 3% Medium
Medical Center of Peach County, Navicent Health Byron, GA 21 minutes 54 minutes 2% Medium
Medical Center, Navicent Health Macon, Ga 28 minutes 59 minutes 4% Very High
Memorial Health University Medical Center Savannah, GA 25 minutes 46 minutes 3% Very High
Memorial Hospital and Manor Bainbridge, GA 36 minutes 66 minutes 2% Low
Memorial Satilla Health Waycross, GA 11 minutes 44 minutes 4% High
Miller County Hospital Colquitt, GA 22 minutes 52 minutes 1% Low
Mitchell County Hospital Camilla, GA 29 minutes 90 minutes NA NA
Monroe County Hospital Forsyth, GA 10 minutes 58 minutes NA NA
Morgan Memorial Hospital Madison, GA 20 minutes 51 minutes 1% Low
Mountain Lakes Medical Center Clayton, GA NA NA NA NA
Murray Medical Center Chatsworth, GA 14 minutes 54 minutes 2% Low
Navicent Health Baldwin Milledgeville, GA 20 minutes 32 minutes 2% Medium
Northeast Georgia Medical Center Barrow Winder, GA 32 minutes 71 minutes 2% Medium
Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Inc Gainesville, GA 17 minutes 50 minutes 0% Very High
Northridge Medical Center Commerce, GA 29 minutes 69 minutes 3% Low
Northside Hospital Atlanta, GA 17 minutes 50 minutes 1% Very High
Northside Hospital Cherokee Canton, GA 15 minutes 48 minutes 1% High
Northside Hospital Forsyth Cumming, GA 11 minutes 44 minutes 1% Very High
Optim Medical Center-Screven Sylvania, GA 15 minutes 35 minutes 2% Low
Optim Medical Center- Tattnall Reidsville, GA 23 minutes 65 minutes 5% Low
Perry Hospital Perry, GA 25 minutes 58 minutes 3% Low
Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Albany, GA 37 minutes 86 minutes 6% Very High
Phoebe Sumter Medical Center Americus, GA 31 minutes 77 minutes 3% Medium
Phoebe Worth Medical Center Sylvester, GA 12 minutes NA NA NA
Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center Athens, GA 26 minutes 56 minutes 2% Very High
Piedmont Columbus Regional Midtown Columbus, GA 35 minutes 48 minutes 3% Very High
Piedmont Columbus Regional Northside Columbus, GA NA NA NA NA
Piedmont Fayette Hospital Fayetteville, GA 66 minutes 72 minutes 4% Very High
Piedmont Henry Hospital Stockbridge, GA 92 minutes 101 minutes 5% Very High
Piedmont Hospital Atlanta, GA 22 minutes 62 minutes 0% High
Piedmont Mountainside Hospital Inc Jasper, GA 31 minutes 62 minutes 4% Medium
Piedmont Newnan Hospital Newnan, GA 63 minutes 72 minutes 1% High
Piedmont Newton Hospital Covington, GA 83 minutes 87 minutes 6% High
Piedmont Rockdale Hospital Conyers, GA 35 minutes 56 minutes 5% High
Piedmont Walton Hospital Monroe, GA 22 minutes 54 minutes 3% Medium
Polk Medical Center Cedartown, GA 11 minutes 24 minutes 0% Medium
Putnam General Hospital Eatonton, GA 22 minutes 37 minutes 4% Low
Redmond Regional Medical Center Rome, GA 5 minutes 27 minutes 1% High
Saint Joseph's Hospital of Atlanta Atlanta, GA 27 minutes 58 minutes 1% Medium
SGMC Berrien Campus Nashville, GA 23 minutes 49 minutes 1% Low
SGMC Lanier Campus Lakeland, GA 20 minutes 35 minutes NA NA
South Georgia Medical Center Valdosta, GA 60 minutes 82 minutes 10% High
Southeast Georgia Health System Brunswick Brunswick, GA 35 minutes 58 minutes 4% High
Southeast Georgia Health System Camden Saint Marys, GA 33 minutes 61 minutes 1% Medium
Southeastern Regional Medical Center Newnan, GA NA NA NA NA
Southern Regional Medical Center Riverdale, GA 147 minutes 113 minutes 9% High
Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center Cuthbert, GA 0 minutes 27 minutes 0% Low
St Francis Hospital Columbus, GA 39 minutes 26 minutes 2% Very High
St Joseph's Hospital Savannah Savannah, GA 28 minutes 44 minutes 5% Medium
St Mary's Good Samaritan Hospital Greensboro, GA 23 minutes 58 minutes NA NA
St Mary's Hospital Athens, GA 28 minutes 54 minutes 1% High
St Mary's Sacred Heart Hospital Inc Lavonia, GA 28 minutes 65 minutes 3% Medium
Stephens County Hospital Toccoa, GA 39 minutes 91 minutes 2% Low
Tanner Medical Center- Carrollton Carrollton, GA 27 minutes 18 minutes 2% High
Tanner Medical Center- Villa Rica Villa Rica, GA 21 minutes 20 minutes 2% Medium
Taylor Regional Hospital Hawkinsville, GA 22 minutes 66 minutes 1% Low
Tift Regional Medical Center Tifton, GA 52 minutes 44 minutes 3% High
Turning Point Hospital Moultrie, GA NA NA NA NA
Union General Hospital Blairsville, GA 27 minutes 45 minutes 1% Medium
University Hospital Augusta, GA 25 minutes 58 minutes 2% Very High
University Hospital McDuffie Thomson, GA 27 minutes 64 minutes 1% Low
Upson Regional Medical Center Thomaston, GA 37 minutes 42 minutes 2% Medium
Warm Springs Medical Center Warm Springs, GA 22 minutes 52 minutes NA NA
Washington County Regional Medical Center Sandersville, GA 9 minutes 55 minutes 3% Low
Wayne Memorial Hospital Jesup, GA 25 minutes 72 minutes 2% Medium
Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center Atlanta, GA 34 minutes 71 minutes 2% Very High
Wellstar Cobb Hospital Austell, GA 31 minutes 52 minutes 1% Very High
Wellstar Douglas Hospital Douglasville, GA 29 minutes 68 minutes 1% Very High
Wellstar Kennestone Hospital Marietta, GA 32 minutes 46 minutes 1% Very High
Wellstar North Fulton Hospital Roswell, GA 38 minutes 52 minutes 1% Medium
Wellstar Paulding Hospital Hiram, GA 26 minutes 37 minutes 1% Very High
Wellstar Spalding Regional Hospital Griffin, GA 17 minutes 95 minutes 1% High
Wellstar Sylvan Grove Hospital Jackson, GA NA NA NA NA
Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center Lagrange, GA 26 minutes 66 minutes 1% Very High
Wills Memorial Hospital Washington, GA 29 minutes 36 minutes 1% Low

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