UC-Davis Medical Center To Limit Emergency Department Admissions
The University of California-Davis Medical Center plans to implement soon a policy under which people who do not need emergency medical services would be directed to community clinics rather than treated in the hospital's emergency department, the Sacramento Bee reports. Facility executives say the plan is intended to help address overcrowding in the ED.
The center last year reported a 19% increase in the total number of hours local hospitals had to refuse ambulances for lack of beds. The medical center's new practice is part of a growing trend among U.S. hospitals to "screen out" walk-in patients with minor complaints and refer them to a list of local clinics, the Bee reports.
Under the plan, doctors and nurses at the facility would screen ED patients.
The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act requires some hospitals to screen and treat all ED walk-ins, but the law does not specify what constitutes an emergency or a treatment.
Some hospital executives say there are more effective alternatives to "screening out" ED walk-ins, a practice they say could be "dangerous and illegal" if implemented poorly, the Bee reports.
Robert Derlet, a UC Davis physician who devised the screening methods used by hospitals with similar policies, said, "Consistency is the key to complying" with EMTALA, adding, "You have to have strict medical standards that you apply to every single patient the same way" (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 2/4).