09 February 2006

ACEP Director Testifies Before Congress

Finally. I wonder if anyone was listening.

Washington, DC - David C. Seaberg, MD, a member of the Board of Directors of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), today testified before a joint hearing of subcommittees of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security.

It was a little off-topic, as he was supposed to be talking about Bird Flu, but he managed to paint the picture of a nation's health system which is in crisis. Money quote:

The latest figures from the CDC found emergency department visits have risen 26 percent over the past decade - from 89.8 million in 1992 to 114 million in 2003. At the same time, the number of emergency departments decreased by 14 percent. In addition, between 1990 and 1999, hospitals lost 103,000 staffed, inpatient medical/surgical beds and 7,800 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds. As a result, fewer beds are available for admissions from the emergency department. Once the emergency departments have filled all of their beds, there is no reasonable way to expect that these stressed systems will be able to suddenly create the surge capacity necessary to effectively manage a pandemic, natural disaster, terrorist attack or other mass-casualty event. [...]

Dr. Seaberg proposed the following 10-Point Plan to increase capacity, alleviate overcrowding and improve surge capacity in the nation's emergency departments:

  • We must increase the surge capacity of our nation's emergency departments by ending the practice of "boarding" admitted patients in emergency departments because no inpatient beds are available. This will require changing the way hospitals are funded to allow for inpatient and intensive-care unit surge capacity to manage this burden [...]
  • Homeland Security agencies on the federal, state, and local levels need to understand that hospitals and emergency departments are part of the community's critical infrastructure. We cannot have response and recovery in a disaster without fully functioning, protected, and connected health resources.[...]
  • We must provide federal and state funding to compensate hospitals and emergency departments for the unreimbursed cost of meeting their critical public health and safety-net roles to ensure these emergency departments remain open and available to provide care in their communities.[...]
  • Congress should pass H.R. 3875, the "Access to Emergency Medical Services Act," which provides incentives to hospitals to reduce overcrowding and provides reimbursement and liability protection for EMTALA-related care.
How many times do we have to say "it's a crisis" before something gets done?

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