State of Emergency

ER doc Kevin Veale knows what ails local trauma centers

NT: That's scary. If I saw off my arm, I don't want it sewn back on by a head shrinker.

Veale: But a lot of times, his care would be more than adequate. Right now, there's no regulation mandating a certain skill level other than basic licensing in urgent care.

NT: I keep reading news stories about Phoenix ER doctors meeting with the governor, the health department, hospitals and ambulance firms. Why?

Take two aspirin, but don't call us in the morning: Phoenix Memorial's ER is no more.
Kevin Scanlon
Take two aspirin, but don't call us in the morning: Phoenix Memorial's ER is no more.

Veale: Because we have a crisis-level problem to address here. The ER is a safety net for everyone who's sick, because we're always open. But it's a non-funded safety net. The federal government says we have to be open at all times, but oh, by the way, they don't have to pay us to be open all the time. So it's clearly a crisis; if we don't figure out a solution to ER overcrowding, people will die because they can't be seen in an expeditious manner.

NT: I'm guessing that telling people to use ERs only for emergencies isn't the answer, because everyone has a different definition of emergency.

Veale: We want to take care of anyone who comes through the doors, but we need for people to realize that, with the new increased volumes, we can't see your kid with the high fever when there's a more urgent case waiting alongside you.

NT: So what's the future of emergency care?

Veale: I don't know. Hospitals of the future may very well consist of large intensive care and emergency rooms and nothing else, because we can provide home health care for everything else. But really, there's no easy answer. Right now, I don't know where the future is going to take us. If I knew that, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

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