A national medical specialty organization says Louisiana’s health care system is well prepared for disasters, but in poor shape for its public preventive health care, access to emergency care and health quality.

The American College of Emergency Physicians’ (ACEP) National Report Card on the State of Emergency Medicine confirms other recent reports that give high marks “for nearly every disaster planning, training, and communication systems indicator,” but also show that Louisiana’s emergency rooms are overcrowded, that quality delivered in ERs here lags that of the national average, and that performance results are poor for patients who need truly critical emergency care.

Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) Secretary Alan Levine says the report shows how far the state has come in one sense, and how far it still has to go in another.

“Our great grades on disaster response and preparedness reinforce how well our governor, our state agency staffs, and all of our partners have elevated our preparedness and ability to respond to health-related emergencies since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005,” Levine said. The state’s “A” grade from ACEP was reinforced today by a separate report from Trust for America’s Health, which scored Louisiana a perfect 10 out of 10 for health emergency preparedness.

“But our poor grades for emergency care should be a wake-up call for our citizens and our lawmakers that we absolutely must change the way we deliver health care in our state,” Levine said. “We need to get our people out of the ER for regular care and into the practice of getting primary care. And our Louisiana Health First health care initiative will do just that.”

In its evaluation of Louisiana’s emergency care environment, ACEP noted that “Louisiana’s low grade in public health and injury prevention points to a critical need for greater investment in and application of targeted, effective strategies to address preventable health risks, injuries, and mortality. Louisiana also needs to improve access to emergency care in the state by addressing current shortages of primary care and mental health providers.”

Louisiana Health First would expand access to affordable health care coverage statewide, provide truly integrated “medical homes” for patients eligible for Medicaid, engage consumers in healthier behaviors and medical choices, and report quality, satisfaction and efficiency data to the public.

“This effort will bring new accountability to the state’s Medicaid program, reward networks that improve the health of people who use their services, and, ultimately, improve health care delivery and results for all citizens of Louisiana,” Levine said.

The National Report Card on the State of Emergency Medicine was made possible in part by funding from the Emergency Medicine Foundation, part of ACEP, with the support of the Wellpoint Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. ACEP is the oldest and largest national medical specialty organization representing physicians who practice emergency medicine. To view the full report card, visit http://www.emreportcard.org/Louisiana.aspx

The Louisiana Department of Health serves to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH or Louisiana Health First, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov.