Public Supports More Funding for Emergency Departments

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , June 18, 2009

More than two-thirds of respondents say the government should provide more funding to expand services for emergency departments so they can hire additional physicians and other staff, according to a new poll commissioned by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

The Harris Interactive poll also found that 81% say emergency care benefits should be included as part of any government sponsored health insurance plan being designed by Congress and the Obama Administration.

"This is the strongest evidence yet that the public supports significant reforms to help emergency patients," says Nick Jouriles, MD, president of the 27,000-member ACEP. "Emergency physicians treat 120 million patients each year—nearly one-third of the national population—yet our policymakers are not focused on addressing emergency care in the healthcare reform discussions. This comes at a time when emergency departments are closing at rapid rates and overcrowding is increasing dramatically. Emergency care consumes only 3% of the nation’s $2 trillion in healthcare expenditures, but is a priceless public resource."

The poll of 1,012 adults, conducted June 3-7, also found that:

  • 51% say emergency department care should be one of the top priorities for the Obama Administration and Congress when it comes to developing a government sponsored health insurance plan.

  • 67% expressed concerns about the length of times people wait to see emergency physicians.

  • 55% expressed concerns about the availability of staff and resources in the emergency department in their community, such as nurses, doctors and laboratory equipment.

  • 55% are also concerned that general overcrowding in the emergency department is becoming a problem.

The poll has a margin of error of 3.1%

"You cannot solve America’s healthcare dilemma without also taking a long, hard look at the state of emergency care," Jouriles says. "In a year in which the first pandemic in 41 years has been declared (the H1N1 virus), it is shortsighted at best and dangerous at worst not to shore up our nation's safety net, the emergency medical care system."

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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