Bakersfield Pilot Program to Allow Ambulance Patients to Select Emergency Room
Hoping to decrease emergency room overcrowding, Bakersfield health officials plan to conduct a month-long experiment in which most ambulance patients will be allowed to select which emergency room they visit, the Bakersfield Californian reports. Currently, ambulances rotate around Bakersfield's five ERs when at least four of them are at full capacity, meaning that patients sometimes find themselves receiving treatment in hospitals out of their health plans' network or at facilities they have never been to, leaving them without their medical records or personal doctors. Under the trial program, which will begin this Sunday and run through June 10, ambulance patients will be able to go any ER except those on diversion status. Some hospitals are concerned that the plan will result in them receiving too many or too few patients. But Louis Cox, an operations manager for Hall Ambulance Service who helped draft the new plan, said that an analysis of ambulance traffic in Bakersfield shows that patients will "spread themselves out pretty evenly among" the five facilities. In addition, some hospital officials said they were open to "trying something new" to reduce the problem of ER overcrowding, which is affecting hospitals nationwide. In March, Bakersfield's ERs were "saturated" -- meaning all of an ER's resources are in use or a large number of patients are waiting for hospital beds -- about 70% of the time (Bedell, Bakersfield Californian, 5/7).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.