are hospital ers equipped to handle pediatric patients

Parents living in and around the Pittsburgh metropolitan area are fortunate in that they have access to the emergency room of a state-of-the-art children’s hospital in the event the unthinkable happens. However, it’s important to understand that not everyone here in Pennsylvania, or even across the U.S. has this option.

Indeed, statistics show that on average close to 30 million kids 18 years and under are taken to the emergency room every year and that as many as 90 percent of them won’t be going to children’s hospitals, but rather community hospitals.

While there is nothing wrong with this theoretically, the reality is that many of these community hospitals not only don’t have a dedicated pediatric unit, but are also lacking the equipment and expertise needed to treat these types of patients.

By way of illustration, consider a recent study in JAMA Pediatrics examining the extent to which the ERs at over 4,000 U.S. hospitals have complied with guidelines/recommendations made by the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Emergency Nurses Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

After examining the survey responses of these 4,000-plus hospitals — which together comprise nearly 83 percent of all ER units in the nation — the authors concluded the following:

  • The median readiness score for treating pediatric patients was 69 out of 100, a 14-point jump from 2003.
  • Only about 50 percent of the ERs met two of the primary criteria of 1) having a physician and nurse on staff with experience coordinating emergency pediatric care, and 2) a formal disaster plan coordinating emergency pediatric care.
  • 50 percent of the ERs are lacking all of the emergency room equipment specially designed to meet children’s unique anatomical needs, while at least 15 percent are lacking so-called critical tools.

While the first point would appear to be a positive, the study authors indicated that there is still a chance that some hospitals are perhaps overreaching as far as their level of pediatric preparedness is concerned and that there was no real way to verify the truth of what was reported.

What then can parents do to protect their children?

One simple step, say experts, is simply to ask the family physician which area hospital is best suited to treat pediatric patients, and take their child there (if at all possible) in the event of an emergency.

If you or a loved one has suffered otherwise avoidable harm because of what you believe to be hospital negligence, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about your options for justice.

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