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article imageEmergency-room doctors in short supply

By Cynthia Trowbridge     Dec 18, 2008 in Health
There are 4,828 emergency departments in the U.S.A. that are open 24 hours a day. The problem is there is a great lack of fully trained emergency doctors to work in them. There are only about 55 percent of the doctors who meet the needed qualifications.
Boston researchers have found there is a lack of emergency medicine specialists to staff emergency rooms.
According to Dr. Carlos A. Camargo of Massachusetts General Hospital it is estimated that it would take until 2019 to find the needed fully-trained, board-certified emergency doctors to work in the 4,828 emergency rooms in the nation. That is also assuming that the current doctors who meet the qualifications do not die or leave their jobs.
In 2006 the Institute of Medicine said ERs should be staffed by doctors whose residency training was in emergency medicine. They also should have passed the required tests to become qualified in that speciality. But Camargo said only about 55 percent meet that standard.
Camargo said in a statement, "The mismatch between the supply and demand for residency-trained, board-certified emergency physicians is a longstanding problem. We probably should explore alternatives, such as giving the family physicians who currently staff many US emergency departments extra training in key emergency procedures. We might also increase our reliance on nurse practitioners and physicians assistants, who can help emergency physicians of any training background better handle the continually rising number of patients."
One of the problems in having the emergency physicians that are needed is the fear of malpractice lawsuits.
Sen. Carolyn Allen, R-Scottsdale Arizona, is preparing legislation for anyone to win a lawsuit they would be required to prove malpractice that shows "clear and convincing evidence" in order to win.
Allen said, "We have a shortage of doctors. And the fact that we could make it easier for them to want to go in to emergency-room doctoring could be nothing but a good thing."
Tucson attorney JoJene mills said for anyone who is injured it would be almost impossible to sue successfully with the new legislation that is proposed.
Mills also does not believe that would lead to more doctors wanting to work in ERs.
Mills said, "Doctors don't come to emergency rooms because they don't get paid because the patients are uninsured."
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