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Improving Emergency Medical Care And Response Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, today I wish to discuss the Improving Emergency Medical Care and Response Act of 2007, which I introduced yesterday. I am joined in this effort by Representative HENRY WAXMAN, who introduced a companion bill in the House.

This bill focuses on improving communication systems used in emergency care response and provides financial support for research in emergency medicine. Disasters that strike our Nation, be it manmade or natural, can have catastrophic effects on the health and well-being of our citizens. The ability to provide adequate, timely health care following these ``sudden-impact'' events--or any emergency situation, for that matter--relies heavily on an effective and comprehensive emergency communication system. However, recent studies show that various emergency medical services throughout the country are struggling to efficiently handle just the day-to-day operations. Therefore, the concern is even greater when disaster does strike and the struggle becomes grossly amplified, ultimately exposing the gaps in our emergency care and response infrastructure. There was no clearer example of this than the flawed response to the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Patients waiting in the emergency department, ED, for extended periods of time or, potentially worse, patients leaving the ED before medical evaluation because of these long wait-times are both strong indicators that improved strategies and systems are needed to reduce the burden on our emergency medical services across the country. Extended offloading times and diversion of ambulances are also contributing factors to a slow emergency response, which can have a fatal impact on prehospital care. Unfortunately, we do not have to look far to see what tragedies will come from not addressing these issues. In fact, just months ago, tragedy struck Edith Isabel Rodriguez, a Los Angeles woman who made national headlines after she was ignored by hospital personnel, dismissed by 9-1-1 dispatchers, and denied immediate care despite vomiting blood and writhing in pain for 45 minutes until she died. How does this happen in a country that boasts one of the highest standards of living of any nation in the world? Ms. Rodriguez's death is unacceptable and is a harrowing reminder of the ultimate penalty our citizens are paying for a fractured emergency care system.

For these reasons, my bill establishes demonstration programs designed to coordinate emergency medical services, expand communication and patient-tracking systems, and implement a regionalized data management system. The types of information garnered from such demonstration programs will contain vital information such as the impact of emergency care systems on patient outcomes, program efficiency, financial impact, and identification of remaining barriers to developing regionalized, accountable emergency care systems. Of equal importance is the bill's support for research in the field of emergency medicine and emergency medical care systems. Specifically, funds are requested to support research in the basic science of emergency medicine, model of service delivery, and incorporation of basic scientific research into day-to-day practice.

Improving and identifying the best practices of emergency medical care is necessary to ensure high-quality, efficient, and reliable care for all who need it. I ask my fellow colleagues to support this legislation so that we can better prepare for emergencies and future disasters.

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