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.

    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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