Overcrowding Up in Hospitals With Large Minority Population

California hospitals serving large minority populations more likely to divert ambulances

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 8 (HealthDay News) -- California hospitals serving large minority populations are more likely to be overcrowded and to divert ambulances, according to research published in the August issue of Health Affairs.

To examine whether emergency department crowding disproportionately affects minorities and aggravates existing health care disparities, Renee Yuen-Jan Hsia, M.D., from the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues conducted a study of ambulance diversion as a measure of crowding in all 202 acute-care, nonfederal hospitals operating in California in 2007.

After controlling for potential confounding factors, including hospital ownership, emergency department capacity, and other hospital demographic and structural factors, the researchers found that hospitals serving large minority populations were significantly more likely to divert ambulances than those with a lower proportion of minorities.

"Our study provides evidence that minority patients in the acute care system disproportionately experience the effects of emergency department crowding when measured by ambulance diversion," the authors write. "Our findings suggest that disparities arise from 'upstream' causes before patients reach their hospital destination, such as inadequate management of patient flow, and that intervention at this level may be warranted to decrease diversion and its disparate impact on minority populations."

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