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Florida Ranks Near Bottom of the Nation for Access to Emergency Care

What are my state's grades? Find them at www.emreportcard.org

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Florida received an overall  C-, ranking 27th overall in the 2014 American College of Emergency Physicians' state-by-state report card on America's emergency care environment ("Report Card"). The state received an F in the category of Access to Emergency Care, ranking it 49th in the nation.

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"The trifecta of per capita physician shortages, insufficient hospital capacity and inadequate health insurance coverage are straining our emergency care system to the breaking point," said Dr. Michael Lozano, president of the Florida College of Emergency Physicians. "Florida has few psychiatric care beds, which contributes to long wait times for emergency patients. People are waiting on average more than 5 hours in Florida's emergency departments. These factors contribute to a situation where many - even those with health insurance - are experiencing issues in accessing appropriate emergency care services."

According to the Report Card, Florida faces severe shortages of emergency physicians and other specialists that are needed to care for emergency patients, such as neurosurgeons, orthopedists and hand surgeons. Full implementation of the Affordable Care Act without a Medicaid expansion in the state is expected to severely limit access to primary care physicians, which are already in short supply.

Florida received a D+ in Public Health and Injury Prevention, in part because of a lack of safe driving laws that resulted in the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities in the nation and a rate of bicyclist fatalities that is more than twice the national average.

The C Florida received in the category of Medical Liability Environment is due to the paucity of insurers offering liability coverage and the lack of pretrial screening panels.

The state earned C+'s in both Quality and Patient Safety Environment and Disaster Preparedness. Florida's strengths in the former include a funded state EMS medical director and triage and destination policies for both stroke and heart attack patients. The state, which can be affected by hurricanes each year, has implemented numerous policies and procedures to help first responders cope quickly with a disaster. These include implementation of a statewide high-tech solution for electronic patient tracking and mandatory disaster drills and exercises for long-term care facilities and nursing homes, which is important in a state with such a large senior population.

"Florida needs to become a destination of choice for health care professionals," said Dr. Lozano. "We need to promote systems and situations whereby we attract, train and retain all types of medical providers — especially those who work in our emergency departments. One way to do that would be to improve our medical liability environment. Florida has a national reputation as a physician unfriendly state when it comes to litigation. We need promote a medical legal environment where skilled and competent physicians feel that they can act in their patient's best interests, and not be constantly second guessing themselves."

"America's Emergency Care Environment:  A State-by-State Report Card – 2014" evaluates conditions under which emergency care is being delivered, not the quality of care provided by hospitals and emergency providers. It has 136 measures in five categories:  access to emergency care (30 percent of the grade), quality and patient safety (20 percent), medical liability environment (20 percent), public health and injury prevention (15 percent) and disaster preparedness (15 percent). While America earned an overall mediocre grade of C- on the Report Card issued in 2009, this year the country received a near-failing grade of D+.

ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.

Follow ACEP on Twitter @emergencydocs

SOURCE American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)

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