WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives will tomorrow consider an amendment offered by U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (PA-15) to H.R. 5, the Preserving Access to Healthcare (PATH) Act, Rep. Dent’s amendment addresses the growing shortage of physicians and specialists willing to work in emergency rooms by extending liability coverage to trauma professionals.

“Emergency physicians and on-call specialists save the lives of countless Americans each day,” said Rep. Dent. “These professionals are required to make quick and sometimes risky decisions based on minimal information, exposing them to an increased likelihood of litigation. Extending liability coverage to on-call and emergency physicians will help specialists return to the E.R. and ensure trauma patients receive the highest level of care possible.”

A 2003 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed medical liability premiums have a dramatic effect on the availability of emergency and trauma specialists in American medical facilities. The GAO study indicated access to emergency care - particularly trauma and obstetrical services – is significantly lower in medical liability crisis states like Pennsylvania. Additionally, patients in these states are also more likely to experience delays in care and transfers from the emergency room due to a lack of on-call specialists.

Over the past several years, hospitals have found it increasingly difficult to secure specialists for their emergency patients. According to a 2005 survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 73 percent of emergency departments reported difficulties in providing on-call coverage.

“Thanks to the leadership of Reps Charlie Dent and Pete Sessions, the House will consider H.R. 157, which ACEP strongly supports, as an amendment to the more comprehensive liability reform legislation  of H.R. 5,” said David Seaberg, MD, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “This amendment not only would provide reasonable liability protections to emergency physicians, but it would apply to on-call specialists, helping make sure they are available to patients when needed. It recognizes that emergency departments are under stress, facing soaring demands, as well as the value of emergency medicine to the nation’s health care system. This is a critical step forward, and emergency physicians are urging Congress to add the amendment and pass the legislation.”