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May 31, 2005 |

Between 1993 and 2003, there was a 14% decrease in the number of emergency departments in the United States. During that same period, however, emergency room visits increased by over 26% from 90.3 million to 113.9 million. This combination of circumstances has lead to crowded emergency rooms throughout the country.

The figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 15% of the visits were classified as emergencies (treatment required within 15 minutes), 35% were urgent (treatment required within 1 hour), and 13% as non-urgent. While children had the highest rate of emergency department (ED) visits, the greatest rate increase was among adults. Those 65 and older had an ED visit rate increase of 26% in the past ten years.

In a press release, Dr. Robert Suter, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, stated: "As America’s elderly population continues to grow, we expect to see even more elderly patients in the coming years." Dr. Suter also expressed concern that proposed Medicare cuts will force more and more elderly patients to seek medical care at their local emergency department.

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