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Emergency room as soup kitchen

During the debate over health-care reform, we heard a lot about emergency rooms jammed with people who couldn't afford to go to a doctor. Today, I read a post on the May 24 Storytellerdoc blog about another way emergency rooms pick up society's slack: providing food for the hungry.

In the post, Storytellerdoc describes an encounter with a woman who came to the ER with complaints of abdominal pain and vomiting:

She continued, however, to explain that since eating the fish, she had vomited three times later that evening and once this morning, prior to coming to our ER. "I feel better now, though," she said. She hesitated before continuing. "I'm feeling well enough for a cup of coffee and a sandwich, even."

And there we go -- the main reason why Rose was in our ER. She was hungry.

The comments make clear that other ERs face the same dilemma, to feed or not to feed.

As I edit the next issue of Stanford Medicine magazine, a special report on teaching hospitals, I've learned a lot about the roles hospitals play in their communities. And I'm still learning.

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