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Harnett County Hospital ER Experiencing Heavy Volume, Longer Waits

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Betsy Johnson Hospital Sign
ERWIN, N.C. — A Harnett County hospital's emergency room is experiencing an emergency of its own -- frustrated patients waiting long hours to be treated.

When Irene Ferguson fell and hurt her leg, she said she went to the emergency room at Betsy Johnson Regional Hospital. There, she waited for over nine hours before she received any help, she said.

"So I just sat there. That's all I could do. Just sit and wait," Ferguson said.

The problem involves Good Hope Hospital, less than three miles away. Good Hope Hospital closed its emergency room May 1. Hospital executives wanted to save money in their legal fight to open a new hospital. So now, patients flood Betsy Johnson.

Al Taylor, who runs Betsy Johnson, said he had one month's notice that Good Hope's emergency room was closing.

"They never told us," Taylor said. "We had to hear it from the news media and just rumors in the street."

Taylor hired more staff for the emergency room, started a system to prioritize patients and said he also plans to build a bigger emergency department this summer.

"There's a tremendous amount of change throughout the health care industry and it's just another change and another opportunity to improve what we're doing," Taylor said.

Meanwhile, Ferguson is healing slowly. As a patient, she had to be patient -- something she hopes others will not have to be, she said.

Taylor said 25,000 patients use Betsy Johnson's emergency room each year. He expects that number to jump to more than 30,000 now that Good Hope's emergency room is closed.


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