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Medical Malpractice Watch: Alabama Fails the Grade on Emergency Care

Feb 11, 2014 - Medical Malpractice by

When it comes to emergency health care, Alabama received two failing grades out of five categories, as rated in the 2014 American College of Emergency Physicians.
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Not only is the care substandard, according to the 2014 America’s Emergency Care Environment report, it’s actually getting worse. The state had been ranked 38th in the nation in 2009. Alabama has since fallen to 44th. For its general lack of support of emergency patients, the state received an overall failing “D” grade.

The state was graded in five categories: Access to emergency care, quality of patient safety, medical liability, public health and injury prevention and disaster preparedness. The ratings declined in every single one of those categories, compared to the most recent 2009 ratings.

Our Birmingham medical malpractice lawyers recognize that care quality for all patients is important. For emergency room patients, though, that care has to be good and it has to be fast because in many instances, life or death may be determined by the choices made in a matter of minutes.

When the wrong choice is made, or care is improperly delayed, it can mean lifelong consequences for the patient.

In 2009, the state was given a D- grade with regard to access to emergency care. That fell to an F grade in 2014. The state had been given a B- grade in 2009 for quality of patient safety. That category ranking fell to a C. Grades for medical liability and public health and injury prevention stayed stagnant at D and F grades respectively. With regard to disaster preparedness, the state fell from a B- to a C+, which, as it turns out, was our best grade.

One of the state’s biggest problems, according to study authors, is that Alabama has failed to address the health care work force shortage that existed back in 2009. This in turn severely affected the overall access to emergency care. The fewer aides, nurses and doctors available, the lower the quality of care.

Even though we enjoyed a slight uptick in the number of emergency physicians per 100,000 people, that figure is still only at 7.5 – meaning Alabama ranks LAST in the country on this front. We have an especially pronounced shortfall of specialists, such as orthopedists, plastics surgeons, mental health providers and neurosurgeons.

Meanwhile, Alabama has some of the country’s highest rates of traffic fatalities, pedestrian fatalities, bicyclist fatalities, suicides, homicides and unintentional fire or burn-related deaths. The state also has a higher-than-average rate of those suffering from risk factors resulting in chronic disease, such as adult smokers and adult and child obesity.

That means that overall, more folks are going to need emergency care.

It is perhaps no wonder then that medical liability rates are on the rise. The average medical malpractice lawsuit results in a payment of about $331,000. That’s a 12.5 percent increase from five years ago.

Additional Resources:

2014 America’s Emergency Care Environment Report, February 2014, American College of Emergency Physicians

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