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ER Docs Predict Jump in Emergency Room Visits

Despite health reform, they expect more crowding, fewer lifesaving services, survey shows

MONDAY, May 17 (HealthDay News) -- Despite last month's passage of health care reform, a new poll reveals that more than two-thirds of emergency room doctors believe ER visits will continue to go up.

The survey -- conducted by e-mail -- also finds that almost half predict that ER conditions will get worse for incoming patients down the road.

The current snapshot of the views of 1,800 ER physicians was taken by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) over the course of a week in April of this year.

"The nation's emergency physicians absolutely support reforming our nation's health-care system and expanding health insurance coverage to all Americans," Dr. Angela Gardner, president of the ACEP, said in a news release. "However, health insurance coverage does not equal access to medical care, especially with an aging population and physician shortages. You also can't prevent most emergencies."

Regardless of health reform, 71 percent of those polled predicted an uptick in ER visits, while 54 percent said they believed that the number of specialists such as neurosurgeons and cardiologists who will be willing to respond to ER calls will drop.

More than 60 percent said that they didn't think health care reform will effectively tackle the problem of providing health care to those who can't afford to pay for it, a financial burden that has forced the closure of many health-care facilities across the country, the ACEP noted.

In addition, 73 percent of survey participants said that their ER is crowded at least three or four times week. Nearly a quarter said that crowding is a problem five days a week, while 24 percent said it's always a problem.

"America's emergency physicians are reminding national policymakers that the dangerous problems facing emergency patients are not going away," said Dr. Gardner. She added that "everyone is only one step away from a medical emergency," and that "this poll should send lawmakers a clear message that emergency departments, which are a critical, life-or-death part of our health-care system, need help now."

More information

For more on emergency room statistics, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

-- Alan Mozes

SOURCE: American College of Emergency Physicians news release, May 17, 2010

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