Having worked in three urban hospital emergency rooms for over 18 years, I have witnessed the human tragedy that crosses the threshold, and the dedicated staff that provides care in crisis situations and situations where no one else is available or willing to take care of.
It is very interesting that as we see a rise in "concierge" and "retainer" medical care for the rich, the options for the poor are shrinking. We have billions for Iraq and cut backs for services for Americans without health insurance.
Snippet from an article in the New York Times...
"But budget problems and other financial issues have forced more than 500 hospital emergency departments to close since 1990, according to the American Hospital Association. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta estimates that emergency-room patient visits rose about 20 percent from 1992 to 2001.
Two out of every three hospitals sometimes reroute ambulances away from their emergency departments because of overcrowding, according to the General Accounting Office. Many specialists, meanwhile, unhappy with low payment rates for treating poor and uninsured patients, have left hospital staff jobs for specialty clinics or private practice, where call duty isn't required.
Now emergency care may be further compromised by a new regulation, effective Nov. 10, that eases requirements for on-call specialty coverage. The regulation, from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, gives hospitals discretion, based on patient needs, the hospitals' capabilities and the availability of on-call physicians, to provide on-call coverage as they see fit."