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FL Ranks Low on ER Access: Report

In a report that ranks states on emergency care, a national physician group says Florida is average overall but near the bottom on access to care.

(Note: An editor at MedPage Today questioned the validity of the metrics used in the report a few hours after it was released.)

The American College of Emergency Physicians'report, released Thursday, gave Florida an F in the category of Access to Emergency Care, ranking it 49th in the nation. Overall, the state received a C-, which was above the nationwide average of D+.

“The trifecta of per capita physician shortages, insufficient hospital capacity and inadequate health insurance coverage are straining our emergency care system to the breaking point,” Dr. Michael Lozano, president of the Florida College of Emergency Physicians, said in a news release.

“Florida has few psychiatric care beds, which contributes to long wait times for emergency patients.
People are waiting on average more than five hours in Florida’s emergency departments.

"These factors contribute to a situation where many -- even those with health insurance -- are experiencing issues in accessing appropriate emergency care services.”

According to the Report Card, Florida faces severe shortages of emergency physicians and other specialists that are needed to care for emergency patients, such as neurosurgeons, orthopedists and hand surgeons.

Another factor: The state's failure to expand Medicaid. This limits access to primary care, which means over-reliance on the emergency department, the news release said.

Lozano said Florida has a reputation as a "physician-unfriendly state" because of a perception that it's high in litigation rates.

The report is called “America’s Emergency Care Environment: A State-by-State Report Card – 2014.”

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.