Pa. improves slightly in providing emergency care

    A new report from the American College of Emergency Physicians finds Pennsylvania is just so-so when it comes to providing emergency care.The report card ranked Delaware 20th with a C-minus, while New Jersey was put in 30th place with a D-plus. Pennsylvania’s national ranking improved in the five years since the last report – but its jump from eighth place to sixth place with a C-plus disguises some worsening problems.

    One of the biggest is the medical liability environment in the commonwealth – due in part to the lack of legal protections for emergency personnel.

    Emergency care doctors face a higher risk of negligence lawsuits than other doctors, said Dr. Charles Barbera, who chairs the emergency medicine department at Reading Hospital.

    “Many of our patients are our first-time encounters and we don’t have the advantage of that history, so we are often challenged to make decisions on the information that we have in a fairly limited time span,” he said.

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    The result, said Barbera, is higher insurance costs for emergency doctors, which translate into higher health care costs for consumers and, in some cases, decreased access to care.

    A state House proposal would make it more difficult to hold emergency medical personnel liable for an allegedly negligent medical action. It has stalled in a House committee for nearly a year.


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