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ER Report Card: States Get Low Marks

Doctors' Group Gives Overall C Minus for Emergency Room Care
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 10, 2006 -- A new report says states are lagging in maintaining the ability of emergency rooms to care for patients and respond to crises like a natural disaster or a terrorist attack.

Grades released by a doctors' group give states an overall C minus for not doing enough to maintain staffing and funding for emergency rooms. The group also says that many states have not done enough to rein in lawsuits against doctors, a politically touchy issue that has divided the political parties in Congress and in the states.

California earned the highest marks, though the group only gave the state a grade of B. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia also earned B's.

Low Grades

Arkansas ranked last for what doctors said was weak public funding, a shortage of trauma centers, and a high rate of traffic fatalities involving alcohol.

Arkansas was followed by Idaho and Utah, which also earned D's in the report, released by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

"Their beds are full, their hallways are full, their resources are being stretched to the limit," says Frederick C. Blum, MD, the group's president. "This is not a sustainable situation."

The overall grade was determined from analysis of four categories: access to emergency care, quality and patient safety, the medical liability environment, and public health and injury prevention.

Some of the specific areas looked at within those categories were the number of hospital-staffed beds, state spending on health care, and whether or not states have residency training programs in emergency medicine. The group also took into account public health and safety factors like emergency preparedness programs and seat belt and motorcycle helmet laws.

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