Emergency departments carry heavy loads

There are many contributors to the load on Emergency Departments. In two presentations at the 2006 Society for Academic Emergency Medicine Annual Meeting, May 18-21, 2006 in San Francisco, researchers examined police pursuits and drunkenness in young adults.

Two other presentations addressed how delivery of emergency medical care can be compromised by external factors. The effect of the influenza vaccine shortage on ED patients was studied by researchers from Oregon. In Massachusetts, researchers evaluated whether ED patients with financial need might have difficulty deciding between medical care and food.

Analyzing Police Pursuits

In the period 1982 to 2004, there were 881,733 fatal crashes reported to NHTSA, leading to 987,523 fatalities. Of fatal crashes, 6336 (0.7%) were secondary to pursuits, leading to 7430 (0.8%) fatalities. Occupants of chased vehicles accounted for 5355 (72%) deaths and police for 81 (1%) deaths. Almost 2000 "uninvolved persons" died as a result of these pursuits (27% of the fatalities).

The authors reviewed the demographic data, alcohol involvement, road location and mechanism of collision leading to a pursuit fatality. Children and adolescents accounted for 28% of all fatalities. African Americans and Native Americans died at a higher proportion than their percentage of US population. Alcohol was involved in 4628 (62%) fatalities. Of police officers killed, 20 (25%) were intoxicated.

Robert M. Miller MD concludes, "Police pursuit related fatalities are an emerging public health problem that affects suspects, police officers and innocent bystanders alike. More data must be gathered by each state to fully understand the nature of pursuits with a goal of reducing preventable deaths and injuries."

These data were presented as a poster, "A Review of Police Pursuit Fatalities in the United States from 1982-2004" by Robert M Miller MD, H. Range Hutson MD, Phillip L Rice MD, Jasroop


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