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Some more findings: Summer and winter were the busiest season in ERs, and the early evening -- around 7 p.m. -- tended to be the busiest time of day. There were geographic differences as well, with hospitals in the South having the highest ER visitation rates.
Also, half of hospital admissions in 2006 came through emergency departments, up from 36 percent in 1996.
"The ER has become the front door to the hospital," said Pitts, a fellow at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.
Some doctors said the report supports a call for increased governmental funding for hospital emergency services.
"Millions more people each year are seeking emergency care, but emergency departments are continuing to close, often because so much care goes uncompensated," Dr. Linda Lawrence, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, said in a statement.
"This report is very troubling, because it shows that care is being delayed for everyone, including people in pain and with heart attacks," her statement added.
The results are based on a national survey of 362 hospital emergency departments.
On the Net:
The CDC report: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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