Arkansas has ranked next to last among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., for its overall lack of support for emergency care, according to a medical officials' report released Thursday.
The state moved up one spot — from 51st in 2009 to 50th with a score of "D-minus" — in a report by American College of Emergency Physicians, a national medical organization founded in 1968 and composed of 32,000 physicians who practice emergency medicine.
Meanwhile, the overall emergency care environment across the nation received a near-failing grade of D-plus, lower than the C-minus grade earned in 2009, the report states.
Arkansas received two F's, two D minuses and one D in five categories, the report states. They include access to emergency care through providers, affordability, treatment centers and hospital capacity; investments to state and private systems that support emergency care; the legal atmosphere for physicians, such as high liability insurance rates that cause physicians to "stop performing high-risk but critically necessary procedures"; prevention efforts in public health and injuries; and financial resources and number of personnel for a disaster response.
"Arkansas policies have nowhere to go but up in support for emergency care and emergency patients," said Darren Flamik, the president of the organization's Arkansas chapter.
The state's best mark, a 41st rank with a D in quality and patient safety environment, is an improvement over its F and 50th place ranking in 2009, according to the report. This score could improve by increasing funding in Arkansas' emergency medical services system and funding a state emergency medical services director, the organization said in a statement.
However, in the medical-liability environment category, the state dropped 25 spots since 2009, with a 37th place ranking compared with a 12th-place rank five years ago. The state lacks a liability cap on "non-economic" damages and needs more protection for physicians who provide government health care in emergency departments, according to the report.
The report states that Arkansas has "notable workforce shortages" for emergency physicians, orthopedists and hand surgeons, as well as a low rate of physicians (1.7 out of every 100) accepting Medicare. The state also has high fatality rates for drivers and passengers, bicyclist and pedestrians, according to the report.