HHS secretary addresses need for funding emergency services

New Orleans — U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt this week spoke about the use of technology to improve medical care and his concern about why billions of dollars in disaster funding have not trickled down to the nation’s emergency departments, which are on the front lines of responding to disasters. Secretary Leavitt spoke during the annual meeting of the nation’s emergency physicians in New Orleans.

“Emergency physicians agree that physicians must be integrally involved in developing quality measures in order for a pay-for-performance system to work,” said Brian Keaton, president of ACEP. “We also applaud the Secretary’s commitment to look into why billions of dollars in disaster funding have not trickled down to the nation’s emergency departments.”

Emergency physicians urged Secretary Leavitt to focus on restoring surge capacity to our nation’s emergency departments by solving the issues of “boarding” and lack of inpatient bed capacity in hospitals, not on preventing patients with primary care issues from coming to emergency departments.

“Emergency physicians support extending health insurance coverage and locally based health care,” said Dr. Keaton. “We also must focus on the causes of gridlock, which starts when critically ill patients must be ‘boarded’ in the hallways of emergency departments, because there are no inpatient beds available in the hospital. When this happens, ambulances are diverted and patients spend hours in the waiting room. ACEP is determined to solve this problem. No one should wait for needed emergency care.”

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