America�s hospital emergency departments are under-funded, over-crowded, and suffer from staffing challenges caused by rising costs of medical liability insurance, according to a report released today by the American College of Emergency Physicians.
More than 3,500 emergency physicians and nurses came to the steps of the U.S. Capitol, urging Congress to �save emergency care� and to make sure their patients continue to have access to lifesaving emergency medicine. The emergency medicine professionals lauded the Access to Emergency Medical Services Act of 2005 (H.R. 3875), introduced last week by Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and urged Congress to pass it quickly.
�The U.S. health care system is collapsing, and nowhere is that more apparent than in our nation�s emergency departments,� said Frederick C. Blum, MD, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. �Hurricane Katrina also made it clear � we must expand the �surge� capacity of our nation�s hospitals.
�Soaring health care costs, reduced hospital budgets, and an increasing dependence on emergency care mean that patients line the halls, waiting hours � sometimes days � to be transferred to inpatient hospital beds. This is a daily occurrence in many hospitals, and our patients can�t wait any longer for Congress to act. That�s why we applaud Rep. Sessions and Rep. Gordon for taking action and introducing much-needed legislation.�
The Emergency Nurses Association added their voices and concern. �We are here on behalf of emergency nurses across the country who fight daily to provide optimal care in emergency departments that are overflowing with patients,� said ENA President Patricia Kunz Howard, PhD, RN, CEN. �Today, we are moving to protect the rights of our patients and colleagues by urging our legislators to partner with us to secure the future of emergency patient care by endorsing initiatives that alleviate crowding and support emergency care as an essential public service.�
�For the 14 million readers of Ladies' Home Journal, who are the gatekeepers of their family's health, few safety issues are as urgent as the need to keep their community emergency rooms open, functioning and vital," says Diane Salvatore, Editor in Chief. �Our readers are a powerful force in advocating for positive public health changes, and we know they will put the full weight of their support behind this initiative to help save America's endangered ERs.�
A report released today by ACEP � State of Emergency: America�s Emergency Departments in Critical Condition � shows the number of patients seeking emergency care increased 27 percent in the past decade, while the number of emergency departments decreased by 15 percent, resulting in dramatic increases in patient volumes and waiting times at the remaining facilities. The majority of the nation�s 4,000 hospital emergency departments report that they are operating �at� or �over� critical capacity.
Thousands of physicians, nurses, and other health professionals assembled on Capitol Hill today to express their support for the bipartisan Access to Emergency Medical Services Act, which recognizes emergency medical care as providing essential public services that should receive public funding, just as police and fire departments do. Specifically, the Act would:
* Recognize hospital emergency departments as the backbone of our nation�s health care safety net.
* Provide hospitals with incentives to end boarding of admitted patients in emergency departments � to help end gridlock and save lives during natural disasters and acts of terrorism.
* Extend liability protection to on-call specialists and emergency physicians who provide EMTALA-mandated care.
ACEP also supports legislation that would provide limitations on non-economic damages awarded in medical liability lawsuits, which are driving record increases in insurance rates and forcing good doctors out of practice in many states.
�When you need the emergency room, you don�t want to worry about it being crowded or under-funded or not having the staff it needs, but sadly, the challenges facing emergency departments mean that all of us might not be able to receive the care we need when we need it,� said Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN- 6th District). �ER doctors are the heroes in America�s hospitals, working under incredibly difficult conditions on patients who need critical attention Congress needs to step up and take action.�
�More patients are seeking emergency care than ever before, but fewer emergency department resources are available,� said Pete Sessions (R-TX, 32nd District). �A national investment is urgently needed to ensure that emergency departments can meet increasing demands. I think this legislation goes a long way toward that goal.�
Joining congressional representatives and health care professionals at the event is Emmy nominated actress Maura Tierney, who stars as emergency physician Abby Lockhart in the award-winning television series �ER.�
�For six years I have played a character who treats patients in a busy emergency room,� said Tierney. �If lending my voice today gets one more person to listen up and support America�s emergency departments, then I am proud to do it. I may not be a real doctor, but I can tell you that no matter how real we strive to depict emergency medicine on ER, it does not compare to what these doctors and nurses do every day. They�re heroes to millions of Americans.�
More information about the report on emergency care, the Access to Emergency Care Act, and the Capitol Hill rally is available at www.acep.org