EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 23, 2014

N.H. emergency care receives poor grades

Report gives N.H. D+

By Alex Lippa

---- — New Hampshire has some serious work to do when it comes to emergency care, according to one report.

The American College of Emergency Physicians gave New Hampshire a D+ overall rating in a recent study. That grade was 28th of the 50 states.

“New Hampshire has long wait times in emergency departments and one of the worse medical liability environments in the nation,” said Dr. Beth Daniels, president of the New Hampshire Chapter of the emergency physicians group. “We must increase the hospital and mental health resources in our state and enact laws to improve traffic safety.”

A big reason for the long waits is due to New Hampshire Hospital constantly being at capacity. The hospital specializes in mental health and psychiatric services.

“It’s not unusual to wait three days for a person to be admitted there,” said Robert MacLeod, chief executive officer at New Hampshire Hospital. “In some cases, it can be as many as 10 days.”

As a result, those patients are having to wait in emergency rooms at local hospitals.

“Patients are waiting for days on end awaiting a bed at New Hampshire Hospital,” said Steve Ahnen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association. “Emergency rooms are very hectic and it’s certainly having significant impact on caregivers as they try to find a place for that person to remain while awaiting transfer.”

Having to accommodate psychiatric patients puts more stress on emergency rooms, according to Ahnen.

“It has impact on other patients, not to mention the challenge the staff and the heightened tension it causes in emergency department,” he said.

That then causes longer waits for other patients.

“In any of our 26 local emergency rooms, the number can be anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes to as high as 30 minutes in some places,” MacLeod said.

Ahnen said the problem has grown in the last two years.

“There has been a reduction in funding in mental health services over time which has led to this crisis,” he said. “We have to find a way to turn that around. The most recent state budget is a step in the right direction.”

MacLeod said there are 158 beds at New Hampshire Hospital.

“I can’t remember a day where those beds aren’t filled to capacity,” MacLeod said.

New Hampshire received a D- in the category of access to emergency care. The last time ACEP did this report, in 2009, the state received a B-.

The state was also given a D+ in public health and injury prevention because the state lacks laws requiring helmets for motorcycle riders and seatbelts for adults or prohibiting cell phone use while driving.

The state received its highest mark in quality and patient safety environment with a B, ranking 10th in the nation. The report lauded the state’s work in triage and destination policies in place for certain patients, such as stroke victims.