Emergency Physicians Raise Alarm on ED Financial Stress, Closures

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , February 24, 2010

The American College of Emergency Physicians today expressed concern over the recent closure of an emergency department in Cincinnati and reports that EDs could soon close in New York and Washington, DC.

Angela Gardner, MD, president of ACEP, says the closures are especially troubling because healthcare reform has stalled and President Obama's new proposal does not address any of the critical problems facing emergency patients.

"The President's proposal calls for investing in community health centers, but we also need to invest in community emergency departments," Gardner said in a media release. "Most people seeking emergency care have the symptoms of a medical emergency and need to be there. Emergency visits are increasing at rapid rates, and as our population ages, even more people will need these vital services."

Gardner said Deaconess Hospital in Cincinnati is closing its ED after posting more than $13 million in losses. She added that St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City, and United Medical Center in Washington, DC, are reporting financial problems that threaten the viability of their EDs, and their entire hospitals.

"Closing these emergency departments will have a disastrous effect—not just on the people who rely on them for emergency care—but also on the neighboring hospitals that will have to absorb more emergency patients," Gardner said. "If you think your ER is crowded now, wait until one in your community closes and then see how bad crowding can get. As people lose jobs or continue to be unemployed, they lose health insurance. Where do they turn for medical help when all other doors are closed to them?"

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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