California Patients Face Longer ED Wait Times Than Most of U.S.
Emergency department wait times in California are longer than ED wait times in most of the U.S., according to CMS data, the CHCF Center for Health Reporting/Los Angeles Daily News reports. The center is supported by a grant from the California HealthCare Foundation, which publishes California Healthline.
Details of Calif. ED Wait Times
According to CMS data collected in 2013, patients in California faced waits that are 23 minutes longer than the national average. Specifically, California patients waited on average more than two-and-a-half hours in the ED.
Further, if a patient is admitted to the hospital, the average wait increased to:
- About five hours and 18 minutes from arrival to the time a patient is admitted; and
- Nearly an additional two hours before a patient is moved to a bed.
At least 5% of patients at 20 of the state's EDs left before being treated because of the long waits, according to Center for Health Reporting/Daily News.
In Los Angeles County, EDs that serve low-income patients tend to have the longest wait times. For example, ED patients at LA County-Olive View-UCLA Medical Center waited about seven hours and 28 minutes from the time they arrived to the time they were released. That was the longest wait time in California and the second longest in the country, according to the CMS data (Campbell, CHCF Center for Health Reporting/Los Angeles Daily News, 10/4).
Reasons for Long Waits
Tamra Kaplan, chief operating officer of Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, said the "fervent increase" in the number of ED patients and longer wait times can be attributed to a new, larger patient base that includes residents:
- Without primary care physicians;
- Who are newly enrolled in Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program; and
- With coverage purchased from the Covered California, the state's insurance exchange.
In addition, Kaplan noted, "Many emergency departments in Los Angeles County are feeling that impact, and some of the smaller hospitals either close or limit ED services, which creates a ripple effect for some of the rest of us" (Tompkins, Long Beach Press-Telegram, 10/2).
According to Center for Health Reporting/Daily News, another reason for longer wait times is that patients are, or seem to be, sicker than they used to be (CHCF Center for Health Reporting/Los Angeles Daily News, 10/4).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.