I was talking recently to someone who works in an emergency room as a nurse, and she told me about all the non-emergencies at the E.R. – among them, people seeking drugs, people sleeping off drunkenness, people with untreated mental illness.
What she described reminded me of this excerpt from a short story, “Emergency Room Notebook, 1977,” by Lucia Berlin (published in an anthology, A Manual for Cleaning Women):
“Fear, poverty, alcoholism, loneliness are terminal illnesses. Emergencies, in fact.”