Once again, these ideas are wrong.
The ER is a place where seriously ill or injured people can go in order to get stabilized. Depending on the illness or injury, healing takes time. Why people come in for a cold and the sniffles, I still don't know. A cold is not an emergency. You will get looked at, have a few tests, spend a few hundred dollars, and be told that you have a cold, then sent home; and you'll still be there for several hours.
Also, the ER is not first-come first-serve. People are seen in order of severety of illness. So if a person is transported to the ER that is dying, the staff will work on that person first.
Next are people with serious, but not life-threatening injuries and ailments. Then the minor aches and pains, and then those people who really didn't need to come to the ER in the first place.
So why are they still allowed to be seen? Well, obviously, the person spent the time to actually come to the ER to be seen by someone, so they'll take a look at you.
The common cold is a virus, not a bacterium, so why are you given anti-biotics which kill bacteria and do nothing for viri? Once again, the person is expecting something from their visit to the ER, and a prescription is usually the way to make someone feel that they got something. There is no cure or way to get rid of viral infections with our technology today. You just have to wait until the body can build up its immunity to it, or, in the case of HIV, it kills you.
A lot of people also tend to think that you can go to the ER and go home in a few minutes. You might as well just forget about that. The process of going to the ER is a lot more complicated than you think. First, if you belong to an HMO or health insurance, the ER needs to contact them to be sure you will be covered for your visit. Then you are seen by a triage nurse to determine what status you are in as far as how serious your illness or injury is. Like I mentioned earlier, someone more serious than you will go in first. Depending on how busy or full the ER is, you need to wait for the next available room to open up. When you do go to a room, you will probably have to wait until the doctor finishes examining other patients that have come in before you, writes his reports and prescriptions, discharge orders, and a whole slew of other activities that the ER physician is responsible for. The doctor could be on the phone to another doctor regarding another patient, reading lab results, looking at x-rays, etc.
Finally, when the doctor does come in to examine you, he/she will ask you a lot of questions to try to pin-point the problem. And, by the way, the doctor will get a physical to try to discover other ailments, maladies, or injuries that you have at the same time, because sometimes, things can be inter-related, like a fever and pneumonia. In order to prove himself correct, or to rule-out other problems, the doctor then needs to decide what kinds of tests to run. Vitals, like blood-pressure, heart rate, and other things will be taken, blood will probably be taken from you, you might get an x-ray, and an EKG (all depending on what they're looking for). The results from the lab on your blood can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half. X-rays can usually show the doctors something right away, but not always.
After the doctor has all your results (and your chart is next in line), the data will be compiled in that little brain of his and the next step will be determined. Sometimes, he will write out a prescription and send you home. And sometimes he will require more tests. He even may have to call your own doctor to get more information about you that you may not have remembered to tell him. And all of this takes time.
And the big thing to remember here is that the doctor has to do this for ALL of the patients he's seeing. Keep in mind, that any one of these steps can get interupted so that he can attend more serious patients if they come in. If it's real busy, you might even have to wait for lab or x-ray to take their tests.
Talk about multi-tasking! You try being a doctor!
(If you are a doctor, I ask you why you are even reading this?!)
ER is not a heal-while-you-wait situation.
Diagnosing is not an immediate ability.
So if you end up there, don't be too shocked if you are there for 4, 5, or even 8 hours. And hopefully, you'll decide to go only if you are in real need of medical care. And hopefully, you won't have to wait too long because there are so many people there for sniffles.