Maine hospitals and the emergency room care they provide have received high marks from a national physicians group.

Maine was ranked third in the nation for providing emergency care services in a report card released Thursday by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

But the report says there is room for improvement at Maine hospitals, and at emergency rooms across the nation.

“The availability of that care (emergency room) is threatened by a wide range of factors including shrinking capacity and an ever increasing demand for services,” the report says.

“Even as more and more Americans come to rely on emergency departments for their acute care needs, such care will increasingly become harder to access.”

The physicians association gave the nation’s overall emergency care system a D-plus, lower than the C-minus earned in 2009, the last time the group issued its national report card.

Maine fared better than most states, ranking third overall for providing a strong emergency room environment.

The physicians group based the rankings on how each state performed in five categories.

Those categories included access to emergency care, quality and patient safety, medical liability, public health and injury prevention, and disaster preparedness.

Maine received an F in the disaster-preparedness category, but overall received a B-minus.

“Maine has a strong commitment to public health and injury prevention, and compared with other states we have fewer uninsured patients,” said Dr. Michael Baumann, chief of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Maine Medical Center in Portland, and president of the physician group’s Maine chapter.

“But the state has implemented very few elements of disaster preparedness planning at the state level. We need to make progress in that area.”

Maine excelled in other areas such as access to emergency care, but one area of concern was long waits for psychiatric care beds, especially for children.

“Some waits in the emergency departments are reported to last eight days,” the report said.

Gordon Smith, executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association, which represents physicians across the state, said he doesn’t agree with all of the findings in the report but added, “I do think we have improved and that is something to be proud of.”

Smith said not everyone in Maine has access to health coverage, and that access to psychiatric care must improve.

“It would be irresponsible of me to say that access is great,” Smith said.

Jeff Austin, vice president of governmental affairs for the Maine Hospital Association, said the state should be proud of its ranking.

But, he said, “It’s just one report in a long line of various attempts to take the massive amount of data that is out there and distill it into a report card.

“We are proud that we did well in Maine but we are not perfect. There is room for improvement,” he said.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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