Riverside Press-Enterprise Examines Emergency Room Overcrowding
The Riverside Press-Enterprise on Sunday published two features that examine how area hospitals have addressed emergency room overcrowding. Summaries of the articles appear below.
- "Demands Growing on Inland Emergency Rooms": Nursing shortages and continued population growth have "left hospitals unable to hire enough people to handle" the increasing number of patients seeking care at San Bernardino County emergency rooms. During the first five months of this year, emergency rooms in the county diverted more than 50% of ambulances to other facilities, according to county data. In addition, hospital officials say that emergency room patients are "sicker than in the past" and require more and longer treatment. Hospitals are now "experimenting with new cures," including adding staff, wards and beds and "rethinking how they handle less-urgent patients." For example, Riverside Community Hospital has added a bed and increased the hours at its express-care clinic, which cares for patients with less urgent problems and has asked that discharged ER patients be picked up by 11 a.m. so that incoming patients can use their beds (Beeman, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 6/23).
- "ERs Strain to Pace Growth": The population in Murrieta and Temecula has doubled over the last decade and area hospitals, including Inland Valley in Wildomar and Rancho Springs Medical Center in Murrieta, have been "outstripped" in their efforts to keep pace. The hospitals have an average occupancy of 69%, more than 4% higher than the state average. Hospital officials say that a new policy that "restricts busy hospitals from sending patients to another hospital" is responsible for many of the long lines of patients waiting for treatment at the two facilities' emergency rooms. The hospitals are planning to expand their facilities but specific construction details will not be available for at least another month, according to Teresa Fleege, a spokesperson for Southwest Healthcare System, which oversees the two facilities. Murrieta Fire Chief Phil Armentrout said Riverside County expects to hire a consulting company to study possible improvements in emergency room efficiency (Farwell, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 6/23).