Sunday, August 3, 2008

Just a Thought

In recent months, most US airlines have begun charging for checked and oversized baggage.  As a student who lives and studies 900 miles away from home, I hate these new policies and the effect they have on my travel budget.  That said, I think they should be applied to the ER right away.

As the name implies, an Emergency Room should ideally be used only in the event of an emergency.  An emergency, which is by definition unplanned.  An unplanned event, which does not involve premeditated packing.

Nevertheless, the number of people who seem to pack before coming to the ER amazes me, as does the volume of belongings that they bring.  A book, perhaps, and maybe a snack could be grabbed on the way out the door in anticipation for a long wait.  But two suitcases, a duffel bag, an oversized purse and three shopping bags should not accompany you to the Emergency Room.  And if they do, you should be charged a handling fee.  Just like airline passengers, ER patients should be allowed one personal item and one carry-on bag.  Anything else should merit a charge, with bags that cannot fit in the overhead bins costing double.

I've seen several instances of emergency room overcrowding caused by baggage, not bodies, but the most egregious example occurred a few months ago when a woman was unloaded by the ambulance with enough luggage for a six-day, seven-night stay.  Escorted by the bellhops, I mean paramedics, to the waiting room towards the beginning of my shift, she was still there eating a box lunch, flanked on either side by a mountain of bags, when I returned the next day.  Checking the list of triage sheets, I discovered that she had left without being seen.  Only she hadn't left - she was sitting there working on a tuna sandwich and a packet of crackers.  I know the economy is suffering and times are tough, but if someone's idea of a vacation includes an all-expenses-paid ride on the ambulance to the plush accommodations of a full waiting room, things must be worse than I thought.

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