Increased Number of Uninsured Patients Contributes To Rise in Santa Clara County Emergency Room Diversions
The Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal last week examined the increase in the number of hours that hospital emergency rooms in Santa Clara County have diverted ambulance traffic this year. The increase follows two years of "significant declines." In the first six months of 2002, the 12 hospitals in Santa Clara County diverted ambulances for 1,203 hours, a 30% increase from a year earlier. The hospitals diverted ambulances for 1,410 hours in the first six months of 2000. At that time, the hospitals developed a system to reduce ambulance diversion hours that "seems to have been working." However, ambulance diversion hours have begun to increase this year, in part as a result of an increase in the number of uninsured patients -- prompted by the economic downturn -- who visit hospital ERs for care. Ambulances may begin to take patients to outpatient clinics, rather than ERs, to decrease ambulance diversion hours, according to Pam West, the county's Emergency Medical Services administrator. Although ambulance diversion time has increased this year, Mike Williams, president of Abaris Group, a consulting firm that specializes in emergency medicine, said that the county has a "model system." He added, "Santa Clara County is one of the better counties as it relates to diversion. The hospitals there are committed to work together" (May, Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, 8/9).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.