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Emergency department directors see specialist shortages

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted May 22, 2006

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Three-fourths of emergency department medical directors said they had inadequate on-call specialist coverage, according to a report the American College of Emergency Physicians released this month.

The survey of 1,328 emergency directors shows that on-call coverage in the nation's hospital emergency departments has deteriorated since 2004, when two-thirds of directors cited inadequate coverage, the college said.

The 2005 survey found that 73% of directors reported problems with specialist coverage, compared with 67% in 2004. It also showed that 45% of directors had patients leave without being seen, compared with 29% in 2004. The percentage of hospitals paying stipends to specialists, whether or not they saw patients, more than quadrupled to 36%, up from 8% in 2004.

The top five specialty shortages were orthopedics; plastic surgery; neurosurgery; ear, nose and throat; and hand surgery.

"The continuing erosion of the availability of medical specialists in our nation's emergency departments is growing and symptomatic of much larger problems in the health care delivery system," ACEP President Frederick Blum, MD, said in a statement. "Emergency medicine is in a state of emergency itself, and patients are suffering."

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2006/05/22/prbf0522.htm.

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