Bakersfield Emergency Departments ‘Increasingly Overloaded,’ Report Finds
Emergency departments in Bakersfield have become "increasingly overloaded" over the past four years, despite the addition of Bakersfield Heart Hospital in 1999, the Bakersfield Californian reports. According to statistics from Kern County Emergency Medical Services, hospitals in the Bakersfield area "were saturated" about 45% of the time in May 1998, 1999 and 2000. In May 2001, however, hospital emergency departments "were overloaded" about 58% of the time, and the "monthly average saturation percentage" did not drop below 52% last year. Although Heart Hospital, which opened in 1999, added eight beds to the Bakersfield area emergency system, ERs have "remained crowded," and the hospital announced plans last December to close the beds this year. Russ Blind, interim Kern County EMS director, said, "The main thing is the resources appear to be more overloaded and the frequency of the overload is increasing." He added that a shortage of nurses, which has no "short-term solutions in sight," has contributed to the problem. Blind said, "All predictions are it will probably get worse before it gets better." Although nursing shortages and overcrowded emergency departments have become problems in hospitals nationwide, Timothy Curley, regional vice president of the Hospital Council of Northern and Southern California, said that Kern County "appears to be one of the worst hit areas." He added that the government should "pour more resources" into nurse training programs (Terwilleger, Bakersfield Californian, 1/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.