(KCPW News) Utah Senator Chris Buttars is hoping to create a task force to solve what he believes is a crisis facing hospital emergency rooms. He told the Senate Health and Human Services Committee today that 60 percent or more of emergency room patients in hospitals along the Wasatch Front are there for non-emergencies. Hospitals also told Buttars they're frequently not paid for these visits.
"So every day, these hospitals are writing off $65,000 in bad debts," he said. "They're driving the physicians crazy, and if you have an emergency, unless you've got an arrow all the way through you, you've got to stand in line for, ‘Johnny needs two stitches and Susie's got a cough.' We're reaching a critical mass."
Buttars' legislation creating the task force was approved by the committee. The task force would have 12 legislators, five from the Senate and seven from the House.
Democratic Senator Luz Robles voted in favor of the bill, but noted that people who are uninsured often turn to the emergency room because their options are limited.
"Having access is critical, so I hope that when we address studying the emergency room issue, we address it in a comprehensive way, where we're also addressing access and insurance rates," said Robles.
It would cost $35,000 to create the emergency room task force. Buttars told the committee in this tight budget year, there's a good chance it won't be approved by the full legislature.