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A healthcare emergency

February 13, 2008

Re "ERs fail as the nation's 'safety net,' " Feb. 9

As an emergency physician, I know that the system can be fixed; it is not hopeless. But people must understand that they are in danger. The prompt emergency care you expect and deserve is not available much of the time. Government agencies are satisfied to attack the overwhelmed providers of emergency care when the system fails.

The rules must be changed to empower non-emergency patients to demand care somewhere besides emergency rooms. Hospitals should be allowed to exceed licensed bed limits to help decompress saturated emergency rooms.

Our emergency care system is contracting; it must be expanded or else help might not be there when someone you care for needs it.

Joseph E. Beezy MD

Panorama City

It never ceases to amaze me how ignorant the local, state and federal governments are regarding this issue. Yes, federal law requires emergency rooms to treat patients regardless of their ability to pay. Well, federal laws can be changed, so why not do it?

Second, many emergency room patients who are treated are there for non-emergency care. People use the emergency rooms for minor injuries or illnesses that could be taken care of by a regular doctor visit or at an urgent care facility.

Third, not only are hospitals forced to treat people without insurance, they are also treating people on a regular basis who are not in this country legally.

Wake up, America; wake up, politicians; wake up, administrators, and do something about this crisis.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Patrick J. Holland

Sierra Madre

Your article mentions that the growing number of uninsured people contributes to the problem because of the lack of reimbursement and shrinking payments from public and private insurers to hospitals with emergency rooms.

But there is another contributing factor. These individuals wait until their medical problems are at a dangerous level and more expensive to treat precisely because they do not have insurance that would enable them to get less expensive and earlier care in a regular doctor's office. This leads to emergency room overcrowding and more expensive care.

Universal health insurance would eliminate this major cause of our crisis.

Steve Tarzynski MD

Santa Monica

Imagine an auto repair shop where people could bring broken cars and the proprietor had to repair the vehicles brought to him whether he was paid for the work or not. How could he run that business?

Until the question of payment for service is answered, the crisis will continue.

Bill Serantoni

Thousand Oaks

The Times just can't bring itself to identify a primary reason why emergency rooms are in such dire straits, especially in the L.A. area.

Before a problem can be resolved, there must be an admission of a major cause.

How many articles will The Times publish about this crisis before it uses the words "illegal immigrants?"

Donald Hirt

Paso Robles

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