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Arizona Receives a Near-Failing Grade for its Lack of Support for Emergency Patients

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SOURCE American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)

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

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Arizona received a D+ in the 2014 American College of Emergency Physicians' state-by-state report card on America's emergency care environment ("Report Card") -  the same grade it received in 2009. Although the state improved its grades in three out of five categories, it ranked near the bottom of the nation with an F in the category of Access to Emergency Care.

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"Arizonans seeking health care face severe shortages of physicians, registered nurses and other medical professionals to provide care," said Dr. Patricia Bayless, president of Arizona College of Emergency Physicians.  "Patients who spend 292 minutes in the ER have access to care, but they also need timely follow-up and long-term medical management. "

Arizona's failing grade in Access to Emergency Care stems from its severe shortage of registered nurses, orthopedists, hand surgeons, primary care physicians and mental health providers. The state has one of the lowest rates of psychiatric care beds in the country and one of the highest levels of unmet need for substance abuse treatment. The state could improve its grade and move higher than 48th on the list by growing the state's health care workforce and increasing hospital capacity.

Arizona's low grade of D+ in Public Health and Injury Prevention is due to low rates of immunization and high rates of pedestrian fatalities, fall-related deaths and unintentional poisoning deaths, including drug overdoses.

"There is a stark need for access to mental health inpatient beds, behavioral health outpatient management, and substance abuse treatment in Arizona," said Dr. Patricia Bayless.  "The best medications don't help if you are unable to make contact with a provider in the first place."

The state received C-'s in both categories of Medical Liability Environment and Disaster Preparedness, which reflects improvement in one category and a decline in the other. The state's expert witness reforms and additional liability protections for physicians who provide emergency care moved Arizona from 48th in the country to 29th in Medical Liability Environment.

However, that gain is offset by a sharp decline in Disaster Preparedness. In 2009 Arizona earned an A- in that category and ranked 9th in the nation compared to the current grade of C- and 24th place ranking. The lack of surge capacity in hospitals that contributed to the failing grade in Access to Emergency Care is also reflected in Disaster Preparedness, because it could impede timely, safe and effective emergency care response during a mass casualty event.

Arizona's highest grade, a B- in Quality and Patient Safety, reflects substantial improvements from the 2009 report when it earned a C. The state now ranks among the top 10 for quality indicators on care provided to patients suffering cardiac events.

"There is stark need for better access to mental health care and substance abuse treatment in Arizona," said Dr. Bayless. "People who wait 292 minutes in the ER have access to a chair, but not timely access to care."

"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

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