In letter to Biden: Doctors and nurses warn of 'breaking point' in hospital ERs

In letter to Biden: Doctors and nurses warn of ‘breaking point’ in hospital ERs

A letter to the Biden administration co-authored last week by 33 medical groups, including the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), paints a devastating picture of the unfolding crisis that goes beyond the emergency services across the country. .

EMT Giselle Dorgalli, second from right, looks at a monitor while performing chest compressions on a patient who tested positive for coronavirus in the emergency room at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles. [AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File]

The letter was sent to President Joe Biden with a copy to Secretary Xavier Becerra of the Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of the US Department of Homeland Security.

The letter’s authors called for a summit of healthcare leaders to take urgent collective action to address the evolving crisis, in which “emergency services (EDs) have been brought to a point of rupture”.

The Biden administration did not respond to the nine-page letter. In the wake of the midterm elections, the continuation of the war in Ukraine and the pursuit of the interests of US imperialism remain at the forefront of the White House agenda. While his full attention is on foreign policy, all COVID pandemic mitigation measures have been lifted ahead of what is likely to be a devastating winter of illness and death.

After acknowledging the impact of the pandemic on the population and frontline healthcare workers, the letter begins by stating, “Our nation’s safety net is about to break beyond repair; Emergency departments are jammed and overwhelmed with patients waiting – waiting to be seen; awaiting admission to an inpatient bed in hospital; awaiting transfer to a psychiatric, skilled nursing or other specialized facility; or, simply waiting to return to their nursing home. And that breaking point is entirely beyond the control of the highly trained emergency physicians, nurses and other emergency room personnel who are doing their best to get everyone treated and alive.

As CAPE notes, the number of patients held in emergency departments awaiting care, also known as boarding schools, has reached crisis levels. The letter pointed out that staffing levels are dangerously low and wait times are worse now than at any other time during the pandemic. The Joint Commission defined boarding as “the practice of keeping patients in the emergency department or other temporary location after the decision to admit or transfer has been made”.

Current standards require boarding times not to exceed four hours, to avoid increased mortality and length of hospital stays. Violation of the ‘standard of care’ is a particular problem for poorer sections of the working class, especially those without health insurance or struggling to access their GPs.

CAPE wrote on its website: “Urgent care teams are being pushed to their limits. Demand for emergency care and services shows no signs of slowing as we head straight into this winter’s “triple threat” of influenza, COVID-19 and pediatric respiratory illnesses like RSV filling the emergency services. The influx of patients is only piling more stress on the shoulders of emergency doctors who are doing all they can to treat everyone in need.

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