Israel's emergency rooms see 2.5 million patients a year, according to a report the Health Ministry is scheduled to release today.

The report is based on information supplied by the hospitals, and covers the years 2004 through 2007.

It shows that the number of emergency room visits is stable. About two-thirds of patients come due to illnesses, while one-fourth come for physical injuries, such as accidents. One in 10 are women in labor.

Many patients are very young - under a year - or very old - 75 and up. There are disproportionately few children between 5 and 14. Men outnumber women in every age group.

The emergency room at Be'er Sheva's Soroka Medical Center treats the most patients, about 198,000 in 2007. Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital had 181,000 patients; Petah Tikva's Beilinson Hospital had 177,000; and Tel Aviv's Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer had 174,000.

Residents of peripheral areas in the north and south were more likely to visit emergency rooms than those of the center and the Haifa region. In Eilat, there were 2.3 times more emergency room visits per capita than the national average. Rates were also higher than average for Rahat, Kiryat Ekron, Ashkelon and Be'er Sheva.

Factors affecting these rates include the availability of services through the health maintenance organizations, such as evening and nighttime medical services. These reduce the need to seek emergency room treatment.

Demographic differences

The report also finds demographic differences in emergency room rates, different rates of illness and injuries in different regions, and differences in access to emergency rooms based on the distance from patients' homes.

Among adults, the leading reasons for emergency room visits included general health problems, cases that involve X-rays, and digestive and lung problems. The most common complaints included chest pains, stomach pains and fevers.

Among patients over 65, common complaints also included breathing problems, pneumonia, irregular heartbeat, urinary infection, anemia and coronary insufficiency.

Among children, complaints included digestive problems, fevers and respiratory problems. Infants frequently were brought in with fevers.