By Nancy Mathieson*
Almost 50% of emergency room doctors polled said they’ve experienced more patients coming through their doors since January 1st, the day coverage took effect for millions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – Obamacare. But wasn’t keeping people out of hospital E.R.’s one of the selling points of Obamacare? We’re now finding out that healthcare coverage is not the same as access, especially in downstate Illinois where doctors are already in short supply and psychiatric facilities are currently stretched to the max.
Dr. Tom Pliura is an emergency room doctor in central and southern Illinois, with privileges at BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Richland Memorial Hospital in Olney, and Union County Hospital in Anna, Illinois – among others. “I’m now seeing more patients than ever in the ER, sometimes holding patients in the hospital for up to two days,” he told me in a telephone interview. “We’re having great difficulty getting patients placed in facilities due to cutbacks in psychiatric counseling”.
Exacerbating the problem of not enough doctors and medical services, Choate Mental Health Center (also in southern Illinois), for the last year has been in danger of losing federal funding due to patient safety violations. Choate Center is working to return to compliance with federal regulations to avoid being decertified by the Ill. Dept. of Public Health, one of the final steps before losing access to Medicaid funds. These problems at Choate surfaced as Gov. Quinn had already been working to close development centers in favor of residents living in non-institutional community settings.
Dr. Pliura cites an extreme shortage of downstate doctors — downstate defined as anywhere south of Cook County. He added, “Doctors know the ACA doesn’t make sense. We can’t add this many people into the system and promise them care. We’ve been doing this for years. You can’t snap your fingers and make it happen; there aren’t enough competent providers out there.”
*Nancy Mathieson is Contributing Editor of WirePoints.