Group says state’s bad for emergencies

Staff writerJanuary 17, 2014 

The environment in Washington state for providing emergency medical care is bad and getting worse, according to a national lobbying group representing America’s emergency physicians.

The American College of Emergency Physicians gave Washington a D+ grade on its annual state-by-state “report card” ranking, released Thursday. Washington’s barely passing grade dropped it to 35th place in the country, down from 19th place in 2009.

The ranking is an attempt to evaluate conditions under which emergency care is being delivered, not the quality of care provided by hospitals and emergency providers, according to the ACEP.

The organization’s goals are in part political. For example, 20 percent of each state’s grade was based on its willingness to establish a medical liability cap – a contentious issue between doctors and lawyers.

Washington received an F in that category. The state could improve its grade by passing a medical liability cap on noneconomic damages, the ACEP said, and by offering special liability protections for federally mandated medical care provided in emergency departments.

Washington also received a failing grade in Disaster Preparedness, which the ACEP said reflects a drop in per-capita spending on disaster preparedness to $5.31 from $7.09 since 2009, and in Access to Emergency Care, in part because of a lack of resources and inpatient capacity for mental health patients.

The ACEP advocates more public spending on hospital infrastructure.

Washington ranked in the top 10 states in the remaining two categories: Public Health and Injury Prevention and Quality and Patient Safety.

“Washington is a leader in quality initiatives, such as triage guidelines for heart attack, trauma and stroke patients,” the report stated. “It also has a strong prescription drug monitoring program and continues to fund quality improvement efforts within the emergency medical services system.”

The ACEP awarded no A grades in its ranking this year and gave the country as a whole an overall grade of C minus.

Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts came out best in the rankings; Wyoming and Arkansas were the worst.

Rob Carson: 253-597-8693 rob.carson@ thenewstribune.com

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