Updated August 10, 2012: Early Friday evening Freeman posted a statement on their Facebook page (posted here verbatim):
One of the unfortunate effects of the May 22, 2011, tornado has been the impact on healthcare in our community. Freeman has experienced a dramatic increase in patients over the past year, especially in our emergency rooms. Adding to that, we're now the only level II trauma center in the area, meaning we receive the most critically injured and ill patients. Throughout this process, it has always been our privilege to serve this community. We understand that long wait times can be frustrating and want to assure you that Freeman is doing everything possible to provide you with a positive experience. We'd like to give you an update on all the changes we've made over the past year:
Posted August 9, 2012: Joplin's Freeman Hospital says they're trying to take care of more patients in the emergency room.
Workers at Freeman say following last year's tornado they haven't been able to transfer most overload as in the past.
While Freeman officials say they don't know if emergency room wait times have increased, they do say substantially more patients are going to Freeman's ER.
The wait time to see a doctor can get extremely frustrating as some nurses and patients will admit.
In June, Beverly Hawkins went to Freeman's Urgent Care. She went in at 10 a.m. with abdominal pain.
"They were going to refer me," Hawkins says. "They were going to see if they could give me a packet to speed the process up."
Hawkins read text messages she sent from her phone that day.
"'Still 2 o'clock, still in the waiting room, still hurting'. And then at 2:49, I texted 'flipping ridiculous wait time!' And then four hours 'no sign of my turn. Just want to cry.'"
Hawkins explains her frustrations.
"When I saw people come in after me with less minor problems that I had, and I didn't know what their problems were, so it's just my visual perception."
Freeman's Director of Service Excellence, Shawn McGrew, says the ER has been stretched.
"'Overwhelming' is probably not the term," McGrew says. "It was an unforeseen set of circumstances that we quickly responded to."
The tornado made Freeman the only Level 2 Trauma Center in the Four States.
"That could be a drowning, it could be a stabbing, it could be many things considered as a trauma - motor vehicle collisions," says Amanda Perkins, a nurse at Freeman.
Freeman staff they've seen an overall 25% increase in these types of traumas. There's been a 30% increase of heart attack patients in the ER.
Across the board there's been 50 more patients a day at Freeman and many of them first wait in the ER.
"We don't want patients waiting in the waiting room with chest pain," says Perkins. "And we most often don't do that, but there are times where you are just so full that we're really having to do needs assessments."
Since the tornado Freeman has hired a new trauma physician who not only assesses injury, but also treats it. There's also 35 additional nurses.
Freeman workers say they can't show if recent overall wait times have decreased.
"That would be hard to put a figure on," says McGrew. "I don't really think I can do that."
But ER nurses say they feel patients are being seen more efficiently.
Freeman nurses say their busiest times in the emergency room are from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every Monday.