Hospital in Los Angeles County Considers Closing Emergency Department
Downey Regional Medical Center has informed Los Angeles County officials that it might close its emergency department in part because of the cost of treating the uninsured, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Downey Chief Operating Officer Robert Fuller said the hospital lost between $7 million and $11 million in 2004 on its ED, adding that the hospital has used a $60 million surplus, half of which was used to treat uninsured patients. Fuller attributed Downey's financial problems to an increase in uninsured patients seeking care at the hospital after the county in 2002 closed several nearby clinics. Fuller said that the hospital also has had to treat emergency patients diverted from the nearby Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center.
Downey treated 46,307 ED patients in 2004. Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke noted that this was a decrease from about 53,000 in 2003.
However, hospital officials said that the number of patients brought to the ED by ambulance has increased and that average length of stay in the ED has increased from two hours to four or five hours.
Nine hospitals in Los Angeles County have closed their EDs since 2003. In addition, county officials said closing the Downey ED could increase patient volumes at hospitals in Whittier and Bellflower.
Hospital officials have been considering closing or reducing ED services for one year and also are considering declining patients brought by ambulance from outside of the Downey city limits.
The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday declined a request for financial assistance that would have provided the facility as much as $900,000 annually.
In addition, the hospital is seeking from the state an increase in reimbursement rates for treating uninsured patients. State officials said a decision likely will be announced in the next few weeks (Leonard, Los Angeles Times, 8/3).