North Carolina Emergency Care Given “C” Grade

When it comes to the quality of emergency medical care, mediocrity is certainly nothing to celebrate.
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Our Charlotte medical malpractice lawyers are not encouraged by the “C” grade given to North Carolina by the American College of Emergency Physicians in their most recent emergency care environment report card – despite the fact that it’s a step above the national “D+” grade.

(South Carolina, meanwhile, received an overall “D+” rating, which was a drop from 2009, when it had received a “C”.)

The grades were based on an evaluation of five measures, including access to emergency care, quality of patient safety, medical liability, public health and injury prevention and disaster preparedness.

North Carolina received an overall state ranking of 13 out of 50, which is an improvement from the 32 out of 50 ranking received five years ago.

Our state received an “A-” in terms of quality of patient safety, though that was a slight dip from the “A” grade we were given in 2009.

We received a “C” in medical liability, which was a marked improvement from the “F” grade we got five years previously. Our grade for access to emergency care also increased – from a “D-” to a “D.”

However, we saw a decline in terms of our public health and injury prevention (from a “C” to a “C-“) and our disaster preparedness (from a “B- to a “C-“).

The ACEP points out that while the state has made some improvements, researchers note that “critical issues hindering access to emergency care have not been adequately addressed,” and this continues to burden the entire emergency care system.

This is especially troubling considering that the state in 2011 passed legislation to cap non-economic damages in medical liability cases to $500,000. That’s in addition to the passage of liability protections for physicians providing care under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. As a result, physician insurance premiums for medical liability fell by 25 percent for both specialists and primary care doctors, but it has made it tougher for those harmed by bad emergency room doctors to seek compensation.

With regard to the state’s poor access to emergency care, researchers noted that about 94 percent of residents in the state are within one hour of a level I or level II trauma center, the number of available beds and emergency room staffers is steadily falling.

That means while a patient may be able to get to a hospital in time to receive critical care, that doesn’t necessarily mean he or she will be treated right away. In fact, the average wait time from the moment a person arrives in the emergency department is 312 minutes, or more than five hours.

These problems are exacerbated by the fact that North Carolina has relatively low child immunization rates, as well as higher-than-average obesity rates. Plus, the number of physicians accepting Medicare dropped to just 2.5 per 100 beneficiaries.

With regard to disaster preparedness, the state also ranked poorly. Whereas nationally, about 40 percent of nurses had received training in emergency preparedness, only about 33 percent of nurses in North Carolina had gotten the same.

Contact our North Carolina medical malpractice lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
America’s Emergency Care Environment, North Carolina, February 2014, American College of Emergency Physicians

More Blog Entries:
Hicks v. Zondag – Physician Liability in Prescription Overdose Deaths, Feb. 12, 2014, Charlotte Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog

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