Pennsylvania doctors are warning that a high demand for mental health services are putting pressure on hospital emergency rooms.

 

The Pennsylvania Medical Association wants to address the shortage with a more efficient way of admitting patients -- by creating a database doctors can check for vacancies.

Right now, when psychiatric patients show up, doctors call around, looking for a vacancy nearby, said Dr. Charles Barbera, chairman of emergency services at Reading Health System.

"Patients will wait hours to days in hospital emergency departments for the next available bed, and that bed may not be anywhere near where they're located," he said.

A statewide registry updated in real time with bed openings could help doctors place psychiatric patients, said Barbera, who also serves as president of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Several groups are working with state agencies to create the database, but Barbera said it could take several years to be up and running.