New program cuts wait time at Ben Taub

HOUSTON We have a surprising success story, the wait times in Ben Taub's busy emergency center have dropped by hours. One patient man was rolled into Ben Taub's emergency room, with a crushed face and two broken feet. But the crash on the freeway could cost him more than his face -- it could cost his life.

Ben Taub's emergency medical team worked to keep him alive not knowing if he would live long enough for the surgery he needed. More than 100,000 patients a year, many critically injured, come to Ben Taub's ER every year, making it one of the busiest emergency rooms in the country. And that has led to notorious wait times of 6 hours to 9 hours, sometimes even longer.

Delays caused by not only too many people but a shortage of doctors trained in emergency medicine.

"They don't walk in with a big sticker on their forehead saying, 'I'm having a heart attack'," said Emergency Room Dr. Bobby Kapur.

Internal medicine doctors and surgeons used to man the Ben Taub ER but that has changed. Patients are now only seen by emergency medicine specialists.

"In the last 12 months when we started bringing in the emergency medicine faculty our weight times have dropped from over 5-6 hours to one hour or less," said Dr. Kapur.

"My beds have turned over a lot quicker," said Ben Taub ER nurse Elizabeth Bochus. "We're seeing a lot more patients. The whole system has changed for us."

There is another change -- ER doctors are now being trained here.

"I think we're all adrenalin junkies here," said Dr. Nieto.

Dr. Roman Nieto has been a doctor one month. This is his third day in Baylor's new emergency medicine residency program here.

"You're seeing these patients, evaluating seeing and treat and you have an idea if they're going to admit, go home, we're going to treat them in less than 10 minutes," he said.

"The not knowing what's going to come in next -- yes I thrive off that," said Baylor Emergency Medicine Resident Candace Pettigrew.

Dr. Pettigrew is another new emergency medicine resident. And these extra doctors are also speeding up wait times.

"As the pain in the chest started all this would go numb," she said.

Houston still has only half the trauma centers of other large cities. But with the ones that are here, running faster and better, people can feel just a little bit safer.

But Texas has a way to go to make up its emergency medicine doctor shortage. The new Baylor Residency Program will train 12 emergency medicine doctors a year, making it the sixth program in Texas. But Philadelphia and New York have that many programs in one city.

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