‘Overwhelmed’ Emergency Rooms Increasingly Divert Critically Ill
"Overwhelmed" emergency rooms are "increasingly" diverting ambulances to other facilities and turning away "the sick and injured," CBS News' "60 Minutes II" reports. Stuart Altman, an economist and professor at Brandeis University, said that although the health care system has had "too much capacity" for most of his life, it is "only very recently" that "we've shrunk down our system to make it more efficient." Over the last decade, approximately 1,000 ERs have gone out of business. At the same time, a growing number of patients, including "an older and sicker population" and 43 million uninsured Americans, are increasingly seeking emergency health care. CBS News reports that small community hospitals and "world-renowned" medical centers alike divert patients. Altman said, "This is as important a public health issue as I think we have in this country today." Altman said that the problem "cuts across income lines, race lines" and is "solvable" but requires "a lot of changes in pretty powerful individuals within our health system." Altman recommended that hospitals give their ERs "greater resources," that ERs "run more efficiently" and that patients stop using the ER for non-emergencies. A full transcript and a video clip of the segment are available http://cbsnews.com/now/story/0,1597,325175-412,00.shtml (Mabrey, "60 Minutes II," CBS, 1/23).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.