Burr Hosts Roundtable on Improving Emergency Medical Care

Lack of beds, long waits, diverted ambulances indicate problems with system

Washington, D.C. - Today at a Senate Subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness roundtable, U.S. Senator Richard Burr brought together experts to discuss the crisis patients and health care providers face each day in emergency rooms across the country.

The roundtable, entitled Crisis in the ER: How Can We Improve Emergency Medical Care?, addressed how to improve emergency medical care by reducing overcrowding in emergency rooms, and improving coordination and integration.

"Across the nation, our emergency care system has difficulty meeting daily demands such as lack of inpatient beds, patients waiting in hallways and diverted ambulances. If our emergency rooms are stretched thin now, how will they provide medical care in the event of a disaster?" Burr said. "Our emergency care safety net is at risk. We must identify ways to reduce overcrowding and improve coordination."

In June, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report calling for a more coordinated, regionalized, and accountable emergency care system. The report found that this vision for emergency care is impeded because the federal programs that support emergency health care are not centralized, and are dispersed among the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Transportation (DOT), and Homeland Security (DHS).

Long before the IOM report was released, North Carolina already had a coordinated and regionalized emergency care system in place. In 1998, a statewide trauma system which is subdivided into regional advisory committees was created. By law every hospital and EMS provider in North Carolina must affiliate with a trauma center. The resulting regional coordination and improved communication has helped North Carolina respond to disasters like the West Pharmaceutical explosion in January 2003.

According to the report, emergency rooms across the country are increasingly overcrowded, the waits are long, and some patients may be transported great distances to receive the specialized care they need. There is a widening gap between the demands on the system and the capacity to provide adequate care. Over the last ten years, emergency department visits by patients have increased by 26% while the number of fully functional emergency departments decreased by nearly10%. These are staggering statistics considering trauma is the leading cause of death in the United States for people under age 45.

Senator Burr, chairman of the Subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness along with 13 bipartisan cosponsors introduced the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (S. 3678) which will improve the quality and delivery of emergency care during a disaster.

For more information, go to https://www.burr.senate.gov.

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