Despite improvement over the last several months, Maryland hospitals continue to rank as the worst in the nation for emergency room wait times.

The average wait time for the state’s hospitals is about eight hours, according to new data from the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission. That’s down from about 11 hours earlier this year.

“This is something that is a crisis, and we need to come up with solutions immediately,” said Gene Ransom, CEO of the Maryland State Medical Society. “We can’t have people waiting in emergency rooms that long.”

About three-quarters of Maryland hospitals have improved their wait times since this summer. However, those times still rank at the bottom compared to other states.

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Some hospitals, such as Sinai, Johns Hopkins Bayview and Adventist White Oak, have seen the length of emergency room waits increase.

University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton reported wait times as long as 24 hours.

According to the British Medical Journal, long emergency room wait times are associated with an increased risk of death and a higher likelihood of being admitted to the hospital.

“A lot of this has to do with workforce issues, and these things are happening across the country,” Ransom said. “It needs to be prioritized and figured out as quickly as possible.”

The United States is facing a shortfall of about 450,000 nurses and 120,000 doctors.

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Maryland started the Emergency Department Dramatic Improvement Effort this summer in hopes of improving its ER wait times.

The program focuses on quality improvement and public reporting of data to hold hospitals accountable.

Specific hospitals have outlined goals to better their experience. For example, at Adventist White Oak, leadership teams will redesign the patient discharge process to identify next-day discharges and increase them from 11% to 15%, freeing beds for incoming patients.

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