Study gives Illinois a passing grade of 'C'

URBANA – Illinois' emergency care system gets a passing grade, but it's nothing to write home to Mom about, according to a national study released this week.

Compiled by a task force of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the study assessed the state of emergency care in each state and gave Illinois a "C" grade – just marginally better than the nation's overall grade of "C-."

The report looked at each state's access to emergency care, the quality of care and patient safety, how well each state does in public health and injury prevention, and its medical liability environment.

Among the things Illinois lost points for were its medical liability environment, a relatively low percentage of people with access to enhanced 911 service and a failure to provide enough influenza and pneumonia vaccinations.

Officials at both Urbana hospitals agreed with parts of the report as it applies to the state as a whole, but said Champaign County residents are in good hands in the event of an emergency.

"I think our community is very well protected," said Allen Rinehart, manager of Carle Foundation Hospital's emergency department.

He said that protection includes Carle's level one trauma center that is also approved for pediatric care, along with a recent expansion of the hospital's emergency department from 22 beds to 35 beds.

Dr. James Ellis, medical director of Provena Covenant Medical Center's emergency department, said it's important to note the report is actually a reflection of how well emergency services are supported by each state.

"It's a grade on how well is your state doing on supporting your EMS (emergency medical system)," he said.

Ellis said he thinks a grade of "C" is reasonable for Illinois overall, but in Champaign County, "I think if something big happened, we would have absolutely no trouble handling it."

Ellis points out all of Champaign County is covered by enhanced 911, a system which presents the address from which the 911 call is originating on the dispatcher's display screen.

He also says the county has good ambulance coverage and emergency medical responders work very well together.

The report ranked Illinois 45th among states in the percentage of older adults who got a flu shot in the past year and near the bottom – 48th among the states – for the number of older adults who got pneumonia shots.

Ellis said Covenant has made these vaccinations a recent focus, and now screens all its incoming patients for flu shots and elderly patients and others who fit the criteria for pneumonia shots.

He and Rinehart also said both hospitals treat all uninsured people who turn up in the emergency departments in need, regardless of their ability to pay.

Both also said they think Illinois needs to take further steps to improve its medical liability environment – a factor that contributes to physician shortages.

None of the states received an "A" grade overall in the report, but the highest "B" grade went to California, followed by Massachusetts, Connecticut and the District of Columbia.

At the bottom of the list with "D" grades were Arkansas, Idaho and Utah.

Frederick Blum, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, said the report shows the nation's support for emergency care is "mediocre or worse."

"Most Americans would not accept mediocre treatment or mediocre medicines. They also should not accept mediocre support of an emergency medical system that they expect to be of the highest quality when their lives hang in the balance," Blum wrote in releasing the report.

The report gave Illinois favorable marks on annual spending per capita on hospital care and the number of board-certified emergency physicians per 100,000 people.

Illinois also ranked favorably in the number of accidental deaths and fatal occupational injuries and the support it provides for medical schools.

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