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Will overcrowded emergency rooms contribute to doctor errors?

When there is a shortage of qualified medical staff, available providers may feel rushed or overwhelmed when trying to see to every patient's needs. Medical experts in New York and across the country are raising concerns about the impact of the Affordable Care Act on emergency room numbers, and it seems logical to question whether overcrowded ERs will lead to increased doctor errors.

According to a doctor with a local urgent care facility in another state, patients are coming to the urgent care practice after being turned away from busy emergency rooms. In the past, the physician stated that a 1986 law which required all patients to be treated in ERs regardless of insurance status meant that many people when to the ER even when there was no medical emergency. Now, ERs are dealing with uninsured non-medical emergencies as well as a growing number of insured individuals.

Part of the ACA push includes signing up more people who are eligible for Medicaid plans. According to widely held view, an increasing number of providers are becoming reluctant to take Medicaid patients because of the low fee schedules. A drop in the number of non-ER providers willing to take new Medicaid patients may also contribute to an influx to emergency rooms.

Regardless of the impact of regulations on patient numbers in hospitals, ERs or doctor's offices, each patient has the right to expect the best possible care from physicians. If a patient is injured due to medical mistakes, facilities cannot get away with blaming it on overcrowding. A review of the situation and possible legal action may be able to provide some compensation for any damages sustained.

Source: KETK, "Emergency rooms more overcrowded than ever" Teresa Sardina, Feb. 20, 2014

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