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Is Massachusetts good at avoiding emergency room errors?

A recent survey of emergency medical care throughout the country by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) resulted in Massachusetts receiving high marks. As a matter of fact, the state was ranked second in the nation. However, the Massachusetts Nursing Association (MNA) does not share the same confidence that the state is doing such a good job at avoiding emergency room errors.

The association points to the fact that a large number of emergency rooms throughout Massachusetts are understaffed. Patients are allegedly left to languish in waiting rooms for hours, and in some extreme cases, for days while their conditions continue to worsen. This may be due, in part, to the fact that many physicians are unwilling to risk medical malpractice claims by being on call.

Another side effect of being understaffed is the nurse-to-patient ratio. Often, nurses are burdened with so many patients that mistakes are more likely to occur. This prompted the MNA to lobby for the statewide imposition of a maximum number of patients to each nurse. It is believed this initiative would help reduce the number of errors, some of which are potentially serious and even life-threatening.

Most hospitals do what they can to minimize the occurrence of emergency room errors. Unfortunately, mistakes do happen. When those mistakes cause serious or permanent injury or even death, the injured party -- or the family of someone who died as a result of such an error -- may file a medical malpractice claim seeking damages. Any court award received could defray the cost of present and future medical costs, pain and suffering or funeral and burial costs in case of death.

Source: golocalworcester.com, Massachusetts Ranked #2 for Emergency Medical Care in U.S., Kate Nagle, Jan. 20, 2014

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