ER visits and hospitalizations for asthma on the rise

Megan Judkins, a nurse, helps Ariana Gomez, 7, test her breathing.  [Jodie M. Gil photo]

Ava Passley covered her nose and giggled as Dr. Jacob Hen walked into an examination room at his pediatric pulmonology office in Trumbull recently.

Ava, 3, of Bridgeport, knows what to expect from a visit with Hen, having dealt with asthma since she was 1. She also spent several nights in the hospital after an attack in 2012. “I had always heard about wheezing, but had never really heard it before that,” her mother, Beverly Passley said.

Ava is part of growing number of people in Connecticut who have used the emergency room for asthma symptoms, according to the most recent figures from the state Department of Public Health.

Each year from 2005 to 2009, Connecticut residents with asthma symptoms on average visited the emergency room 22,000 times, and were hospitalized 4,800 times.

The reasons vary: some are new asthma patients, some have new conditions that trigger their asthma, and many just poorly manage their medications, doctors say.

The visits made up 1 percent of total hospital health care charges in Connecticut in 2009, at a cost of $112.8 million. Medicare and Medicaid paid for 73.8 percent of the hospitalizations and 60 percent of the emergency room visits.

The increase is being watched by officials in the state health department, researchers at Connecticut universities and community environmental groups, as they look to help people better manage the disease, while saving money on preventable hospital visits.

And yet, the most recent numbers show that the situation is getting worse — especially for minorities and people living in urban areas.

To read more, go to c-hit.org.

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