from newsweek health---msnbc.com
a three-part series on the state of emergency room health care in america today.
'we're at our breaking point'
gunshot wounds. blood and brain matter. exhausted nurses, endless wait times—and no end in sight. the only thing scarier than an average saturday evening in the er: what if it was forced to close? one night in atlanta.
may 8, 2007 - enter grady memorial hospital's er and your senses come under attack. mangled, blood-coated bodies lie in the trauma bays. shrieks of pain pierce the din. rank smells curdle the air, released by flesh that has been battered, gashed and infected. the place throbs with frenzied, unrelenting activity. hospital workers race about, struggling to prioritize patients, leavening the mood with sardonic cracks. just when it seems the staff can't be pushed any further, paramedics burst in with another critical patient, setting off yet another spasm of mayhem.
to get a closer look at grady's inner workings, a newsweek reporter and photographer spent five days in the er last summer. such access is rare, and newsweek agreed not to publish the names of patients—or photograph them in identifiable fashion—unless they agreed to it and signed releases. the portrait that emerged was disconcerting. like many ers across the country, grady's is perilously near collapse. the reasons are familiar: cutbacks in funding, a growing pool of uninsured people, and an older and sicker population that requires more costly treatment, among others. grady has been sending distress signals for years, but those warnings are now direr than ever. the facility is losing $3 million per month. it's 120 days behind in paying some creditors. and it almost failed to meet payroll in march. to put it simply, the hospital cannot survive much longer in its current state. were it to shut down, the impact on atlanta and the surrounding area would be devastating. what follows is the account of one revealing, and utterly routine, night....
how to stop the bleeding
portrait of an er on the verge
sounding the alarms
interactive: the alarming stats
photo gallery: scenes from the er
tell us about your er experience
video: grady hospital's er in atlanta, georgia