CONTRA COSTA: Hospitals Refuse To Release ER Wait Times
Contra Costa hospitals have rejected a request by the county to disclose their emergency room wait times, data that was requested in an effort to assess the impact of hospital closings in the area, the Contra Costa Times reports. The petition for the data by the county was precipitated by three occurrences: "the deaths of three patients, each of whom died after a long wait in an emergency department"; this winter's harsh flu season; and "January's closure of Kaiser Permanente's Martinez hospital -- and the pressure that closure may place on other emergency rooms." According to Lynn Baskett, senior vice president of the hospital council, the "data would be costly to gather, complicated to understand and not necessarily comparable from hospital to hospital." She said, "We didn't feel it would provide anything useful in planning emergency capacity in Contra Costa County."
Not Good Enough
Area hospitals participated in a pilot study in March, in which they presented lists of average wait times only, the Contra Costa Times reports. But county officials deemed this insufficient, saying they needed "raw data and not averages, on the total door-to-door time patients spend in emergency rooms, not just the time spent waiting to see a doctor." Supervisor Donna Gerber said, "I'm disappointed. They've hamstrung the county as a local agency to be able to monitor and make sure our emergency medical system is safe for consumers." Director of the Emergency Medical Services Agency Art Lathrop added that without the details, "We won't have the baseline data we were looking for that would help us assess the impact of any further hospital closures or hospital downsizing on the system." The hospital council did offer on Monday to "consider paying for a capacity study," which would be performed by a independent consulting firm to determine the amount of ER capacity needed for the area's population. But Gerber said, "I believe that the information that needs to be looked at is what is happening to patients, not some kind of esoteric, intellectual, expensive analysis from the hospitals' particular point of view" (Appleby, 5/12).