Lower-Income California Residents Wait Longer for Emergency Room Care, Study Finds
California residents who seek emergency room care wait an average of 56 minutes, and 42% wait longer than 60 minutes to visit a physician or nurse, according to a study published last week in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. In the study, titled "Waiting Times in California's Emergency Departments," researchers observed 1,798 patients at 30 California hospitals between Dec. 15, 2000, and May 15, 2001. The study, commissioned by the California HealthCare Foundation and conducted by the University of California-Los Angeles and the Veterans Administration Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, found that lower-income patients often must wait longer for care (Bartholomew, Los Angeles Daily News, 1/3). The study found that for each $10,000 decrease in per capita income within a zip code, patients waited 10 minutes longer, regardless of whether they visited public or private hospitals. Researchers said that lower-income communities "may have a disproportionate number of uninsured patients with more complex medical problems." Dr. Susan Lambe, lead author of the study, said, "We hope policy makers will use this information to begin addressing this supply and demand problem, which has become particularly pressing, considering the nation's emergency departments are vulnerable to threats ranging from bioterrorism to the current economic downturn" (American College of Emergency Physicians release, 1/2). The study is available online.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.