The results of a recent national survey, published by the American College of Emergency Physicians, indicates significantly inadequate coverage for several surgical specialties. The survey was sent to emergency department
According to lead author Mitesh Rao, 21% of deaths and permanent injury in EDs can be linked to shortages of specialty physician care. As a result of shortages, transferring patients over significant distances to available specialists is sometimes the only option. Unfortunately this can mean a dangerous delay in care.
The survey found that 60% of respondents had been unable to continue providing 24-hour coverage for at least one medical specialty in the last four years. Over 75% reported inadequate ED coverage for plastic surgery, hand surgery and neurosurgery. Nearly 25% reported a growing number of patients who leave before being attended by a specialist. The same proportion of respondents also reported a loss or downgrade in their hospitals' trauma center designation.
The survey did indicate a slight advantage in teaching hospitals. Inadequate coverage was reported by 68% of teaching hospital ED directors, compared to 78% for non-teaching hospitals.
"Without adequate on-call coverage, our healthcare system cannot provide for emergency and trauma patients", concluded Mr. Rao.