If patients have the opportunity to choose which hospital they will go to for emergency care, they will likely want to know the answer to this crucial question: How long will they have to wait?
The answer can vary quite a bit at New Jersey hospitals, with average wait times ranging from 14 minutes at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston to as long as 92 minutes at Barnabas-owned Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark,.
In fact, the three Newark hospitals have the three longest waits for emergency care, with Newark Beth Israel followed by University Hospital, at 84 minutes, and Saint Michael’s Medical Center, at 77 minutes.
These emergency wait-time statistics are tracked by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and compiled by the nonprofit news website ProPublica, which also provides an online application for estimating current travel times from a reader’s location to nearby hospitals. (The site also cautions that anyone who’s suffered a heart attack or serious injury should contact 911 immediately).
Many factors affect hospital wait times, from the time of day to the location of the hospital, notes the American College of Emergency Physicians. So while a given hospital may have a subpar average wait time, it could still be the best option for a patient in an emergency.
Last year, ACEP gave New Jersey a grade of “D-plus” citing the state’s subpar access to emergency care and its malpractice rules. The was the same grade that the organization gave the entire country.
Forty states have lower average wait times than New Jersey’s average of 30 minutes, which is tied with four other states. The Garden State also has higher-than-average times for minutes spent in the emergency room (148 in New Jersey vs. 133 minutes nationally); minutes that patients with broken bones waited for pain medication (57 in New Jersey vs. 55 minutes nationally) and additional time that patients who’ve been admitted have to wait to be taken to their rooms (143 in New Jersey vs. 97 minutes nationally).
The states that do worse than New Jersey are also more densely populated states in the Northeast: : After the District of Columbia, the states with the longest wait times are Maryland, Massachusetts, Delaware, New York and Rhode Island.
Here are the New Jersey hospitals with the longest average times that patients spend in an emergency room before being seen by a doctor:
1.Newark Beth Israel Hospital, 92 minutes
In addition to having the longest wait time for ER patients to see a doctor, Newark Beth Israel also had the longest wait time for admitted patients to be taken to their rooms — a whopping 601 minutes, or 10 hours. That time was more than twice as long as the next highest hospital.
Newark Beth Israel would be merged with University Hospital, and its campus would be turned into an emergency and ambulatory care center under recommendations the consulting firm Navigant recently submitted to the state.
2. University Hospital, Newark, 84 minutes
University Hospital, the only state-owned hospital in New Jersey, has the longest average time that patients spend in the emergency room before being sent home, at 238 minutes. It also has the longest average time for patients with broken bones to receive pain medication — 121 minutes, 33 minutes University would be expanded under Navigant’s recommendations.
3. Saint Michael’s Medical Center, Newark, 77 minutes
Saint Michael’s also ranks third in the average time that patients spend in the emergency room before being sent home, at 198 minutes.
Saint Michael’s staff members, Newark residents and politicians are fighting for both the hospital’s survival and for it to be sold to the California for-profit chain Prime Healthcare. Navigant recommended that it be converted into an emergency and ambulatory care facility.
4. CarePoint Health-Hoboken University Medical Center, 67 minutes
The first for-profit hospital on this list, Hoboken is better than the state average in the average time it takes to transfer admitted patients to their rooms.
5. Raritan Bay Medical Center, Perth Amboy, 64 minutes
Raritan Bay is better than the state average in both the time it takes to send ER patients home, and the time it takes to transfer admitted patients to their rooms. Neptune-based Meridian Health has been advancing a plan to purchase the hospital.
6. Hackensack UMC-Mountainside, Montclair, 62 minutes
Co-owned by Hackensack and for-profit LHP Hospital Group, Mountainside is better than the state average in the time it takes to admitted patients to their rooms, but worse in the other ER wait-time categories.
7. Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville, 57 minutes
Virtua Memorial Hospital of Burlington County, Mount Holly, 57 minutes
Both Clara Maass and Memorial are part of hospital chains. Clara Maass was spared in the report by Navigant, which recommended that it continue as a full-service acute-care hospital.
8. Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neptune, 56 minutes
Meridian’s flagship hospital, Jersey Shore is strongest in transferring admitted patients to their rooms, where it’s 12 minutes below the state average, but weaker in the other wait-time categories.
9. East Orange General Hospital, 52 minutes
East Orange is the last of the three Newark-area hospitals that would be converted from being full-service, acute-care hospitals to being emergency and outpatient centers under the Navigant recommendations.
10. Community Medical Center, Toms River, 48 minutes
Community Medical Center is part of the Barnabas Health system. Its wait times were worse than the New Jersey average in all four categories.