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IA Emergency Room Concerns

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- The grades are in - and the news is both good and bad when it comes to emergency care in Iowa.

A group of the nation's leading physicians says Iowa does well then it comes to public health and injury prevention. Overall, Iowa's emergency rooms rank 11th out of 50 states with an overall grade of C, higher than the nations D average.

However, the outlook isn't as good in several key areas.

"Above the grade, but we still have a long way to go," said Dr. Hans House, with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

His statement basically sums up where Iowa really stands in terms of emergency services.

Dr. House serves as a board member on The American College of Emergency Physicians. The group says despite Iowa being above the grade, there are some places where we fall below it.

"We have the single lowest number of emergency physicians per capita in the country," Dr. House says. Were dead last."

Part of that has to do with residency programs. UI has the only one in the state, created about 10 years ago. But it only accepts 9 students per year.

"It's going to take a long time at 9 doctors per year, to fill all the demand for the emergency departments in Iowa," Dr. House said.

Iowa is also near the bottom when it comes to specialists - like neurosurgeons and plastic suggestions.

With the residency program being so small, you have to look outside the state for those specialty doctors, but that's no easy task.

"It's hard to attract physicians in those specialties to some areas and states," says Dr. Michael Miller, who is the director of UIHC emergency care.

Dr. Miller says frivolous malpractice lawsuits make that even tougher. He says Iowa's current legal landscape harms doctors and until some of laws are changed, potential doctors will stay away.

"Those physicians provide a lot of federally mandated care under the EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act), which is un-reimbursed care that we're liable for," he says.

Miller says it's hard to bring people into the profession with those conditions, but manpower is what they need, as Obamacare gives people more access to care.

"When patients call up their family doctor with an acute problem, 4 out of 5 times, they're gonna say go to the ER," Dr. Miller said.

It could lead to the nightmarish wait times, and the worst case scenario - hospitals closing their doors for good.

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