New Mexico’s black eye on emergency care report card

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New Mexico has received an overall grade of D- in emergency care, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican (free registration required):

Further exacerbating access to emergency care is the state’s lack of nurses; it ranked 47th among states for this measure. The nursing shortage also might explain why New Mexico lags behind most states in its supply of staffed hospital beds. Researchers said these problems contribute to emergency department overcrowding by forcing admitted emergency patients to wait hours and sometimes days until an in-patient bed becomes available.

Western New Mexico University continues to push its nursing program, and this news will only mean more support for the program throughout the state (and hopefully in the Legislature). The state’s high number of uninsured is, of course, another problem. Maybe the idea of providing health insurance to all New Mexicans will gain some more traction after this report. One thing supporters of the plan champion is increasing access to quality emergency room care for rural residents.

The report cited the state’s lack of spending on health care as one of the main problems:

In the most heavily weighted category, access to emergency care, New Mexico received a D-plus. Driving down the state’s grade was the high number of uninsured residents and the state’s poor spending on health care, including public funding of health insurance.

Overall, health care spending in the U.S. slowed in 2004, growing 7.9% over the year. While growth slowed, it still outpaces inflation. Yet, the report issued by the American College of Emergency Physicians calls into question New Mexico’s “poor spending.” As we move forward in this new millennium, we’ll have to evaluate what to do with health-care spending: take it on as a society, or continue to make individuals pay for their increasingly expensive care.

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