Ban on Ambulance Diversions Doesn't Worsen ER Crowding

Findings based on the experience of nine Boston-area emergency departments

THURSDAY, Jan. 3 (HealthDay News) -- A 2009 ban on ambulance diversion in Massachusetts did not worsen crowding in emergency departments or ambulance turnaround times, according to research published online Dec. 21 in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Laura G. Burke, M.D., from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and colleagues retrospectively analyzed data from nine Boston-area hospital emergency departments before and after the ban. Emergency department length of stay was used as a proxy for crowding.

The researchers observed no increase in emergency department length of stay for admitted or discharged patients or in ambulance turnaround time, despite an overall 3.6 percent increase in emergency department volume. Overall, there was a 10.4-minute decrease in length of stay for admitted patients, and a 2.2-minute decrease in turnaround time. When analyzed separately, neither high- nor low-diverting emergency departments saw an increase in length of stay, and both saw a decrease in turnaround time.

"Our results suggest that the ban did not worsen emergency department crowding or ambulance availability at Boston-area hospitals," the authors write.

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