New Jersey Ambulance Diversions Increase
An average of one ambulance per hour in New Jersey is being diverted toanother hospital as residents increasingly seek treatment in emergencydepartments throughout the state, according to a report releasedTuesday by the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. According to the report, ED visits in 2005 increased to 3.36 million -- a more than 25% increase since 1998.
Thereport found that the "state's hospitals appear to be extremelyconstrained" during peak periods, such as during flu season. Undercurrent conditions, hospitals would have "almost no surge capacityavailable" to respond to major medical emergencies, such as a terroristattack or flu pandemic, according to report author Derek DeLia, asenior policy analyst and Rutgers assistant professor.
NewJersey Health Commissioner Fred Jacobs said, "It's not always as simpleas saying hospitals have fewer staffed beds. Emergency departmentdiversions occur when units like critical care are full." The Star-Ledgerreports that 17 acute care hospitals have shut down because offinancial reasons since 1995, and other poor-performing hospitals couldclose while a commission -- created by Gov. Jon Corzine (D) in 2006 --evaluates the distribution of the state's health care resources.
Meanwhile, New Jersey Hospital Associationofficials say EDs throughout the state are treating more uninsuredpatients, as well as those with no access to a primary care physicianand insured patients who choose not to wait for physician appointments.The report notes that state residents with chronic health conditionsalso are using more emergency services.
Some inner-cityhospitals have responded by developing chronic disease managementprograms, and DeLia said hospitals can try to manage factors thataffect hospital capacity, for example, by ensuring patients aredischarged in a timely manner. "Hospitals that are better atstreamlining these kinds of issues can take on more volume," DeLia said(Stewart, Newark Star-Ledger, 9/5).
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