Emergency Medical Care Receives C-Minus Grade in ACEP Analysis; California Receives Highest Grade
Emergency medical care in the U.S. received an overall C-minus grade on Tuesday in the first national state-by-state analysis, USA Today reports. For the analysis, an American College of Emergency Physicians task force examined data from government and other sources to grade the 50 states and the District of Columbia on 50 measures (Appleby, USA Today, 1/10).
The measures were divided into four categories:
- Access to emergency care;
- Quality and patient safety;
- Medical liability environment; and
- Public health and injury prevention (Connolly, Washington Post, 1/10).
According the analysis, no state received an overall A grade, and more than half received below-average grades for measures such as availability of hospital beds and emergency specialists, immunization rates, injury-prevention programs, medical malpractice laws and 911 telephone systems (Connolly, Washington Post, 1/10).
The number of emergency departments in the U.S. has decreased by 14% since 1993, as the number of emergency patients has increased, the analysis finds (AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 1/10). In addition, the analysis finds that the number of uninsured patients who use EDs for primary care has increased.
The analysis also finds that hospitals have less ability to transfer emergency patients to hospital beds. U.S. hospitals closed 103,000 medical-surgical beds and 7,800 intensive-care beds in the 1990s, according to the American Hospital Association.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the analysis also "sounds an alarm on nurse shortages, ambulance diversions, low levels of state financial support and severe emergency room overcrowding" (McKenna, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/10).
The analysis concludes, "The results are sobering. The national emergency health care system is in serious condition, with many states in a critical situation" (Levine, Washington Post, 1/10).
Angela Gardner, chair of the task force, said, "We have no capacity to handle a Hurricane Katrina or an avian flu outbreak. We can barely handle a regular flu outbreak" (Connolly, Washington Post, 1/10).
Stephen Epstein, an emergency care physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a member of the task force, said, "The emergency health care system's in serious condition. We have a safety net for health care that is frayed."
Frederick Blum, president of ACEP, said, "Americans assume they will receive lifesaving emergency care when and where they need it, but increasingly that isn't the case" (AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 1/10).
The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.