Utah scores among top 5 states for ER care

By Mary Richards

If you have a medical emergency, Utah is a good place to be. A new report card says Utah is doing well in some aspects of emergency care but still has room to improve.

Go into some emergency rooms around the country and you can wait six, eight, even 10 hours to be seen. But ER Dr. David Cole says it’s not so here. “In Utah, in all the hospitals I work at, if it’s an hour, we’re not happy. We try to see everybody within 10 minutes,” he said.

Dr. Cole is the president of the Utah chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians. He says this new report praises Utah for its public health and patient safety policies, but we rank in the bottom for having few registered nurses and too many underinsured people.

“We see between 10 and 25 percent of our patients who have no insurance,” Cole said. He says that will only get worse as the economy gets worse.

Cole also says Utah needs medical tort reform. The report card says medical liability insurance premiums are higher than average in Utah.

Overall, Utah received a C+. The five report card categories are: Access to Emergency Care (30 percent), Quality and Patient Safety Environment (20 percent), Medical Liability Environment (20 percent), Public Health and Injury Prevention (15 percent) and Disaster Preparedness (15 percent.

In these categories Utah ranked 32nd (D-), 3rd (A), 23rd (C), 2nd (A), and 25th (C+), respectively.

The Utah Report Card made several recommendations for improvement:

  • Increase the percentage of the population with health insurance.
  • Encourage preventive care.
  • Improve the medical liability environment by providing protections for physicians who provide EMTALA-mandated emergency care.
  • In addition, reduce the medical liability cap on non-economic damages to attract and retain physicians and to encourage on-call services in the emergency department.
  • Invest in disaster preparedness plans, programs and systems.

E-mail: mrichards@ksl.com

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