Many emergency department directors at Connecticut hospitals say their departments expedite care for very important persons and see doing so as “vaguely unethical but necessary,” according to a letter written by Hartford Hospital emergency medicine director Dr. A.J. Smally and published this month in the journal Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Smally and four colleagues wrote that the findings were based on survey posed to a listserv of medical directors at 32 of the state’s 33 acute care hospitals, to see if they approved of offering expedited care to VIPs. They wrote that more than half responded, with all but one endorsing the practice, while the other was noncommittal. The authors noted that the survey addressed providing care to a VIP ahead of other people, not providing different care.

The authors included comments from some of the emergency department medical directors, who suggested that it was necessary for political and economic reasons, could lead to VIPs assisting with projects or improvements that could benefit the hospital, and that providing expedited care was akin to the common practice of expediting care for staff members’ friends and family.

“In Connecticut, many of the ED medical directors view this as analogous to not telling a small child that there is no Santa-vaguely unethical but necessary,” the authors wrote.

Read more about the Connecticut survey, and a similar one conducted nationally, here.

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Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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