Doctor shortage could delay treatment for brain injuries, more in ER

Most people in Pittsburgh expect that when they go to the emergency room seeking medical treatment, they will get the best care possible. Yet, that is not always the case. There are any number of things that could prevent physicians from properly diagnose and treat certain conditions. Lack of communication during shift changes, taking shortcuts to decrease wait times, medical malpractice and shortages of non-primary care specialists can all have a significant impact on the quality of care that a patient receives.

A traumatic brain injury, a rare heart condition or severe burns are all examples of medical emergencies that can be better treated by a non-primary care specialist. Patients who seek treatment in an ER for any of these unique ailments could experience delayed treatment while they wait for an on-call physician to travel to the hospital or are required to transfer to another facility. While this is more common in rural areas, it can happen anywhere. There is a nationwide shortage of specialists; by the year 2015 as many as 33,000 more non-specialty physicians will be required. That number is projected to increase to upwards of 64,000 by the year 2025. Many specialty physicians do not want to work in emergency rooms for monetary reasons. They still have to provide care for patients who do not have insurance or are underinsured and, therefore, are less likely to get paid for treating those patients.

Anyone who has recently sought medical treatment in an emergency room and felt that they did not receive adequate care may want to consult with an attorney. While not every case may be actionable, there are a wide variety of scenarios that could warrant negligence and medical malpractice.   

Source:, “10 things emergency rooms won’t tell you,” Jonnelle Marte, Dec. 10, 2013.