Ambulance diversion happens when a hospital’s ER cannot care for more patients. The ER goes “on diversion” and ambulances are redirected to another hospital or medical facility. And the practice of ambulance diversion is more common than you may realize.
Every minute in the United States, an ambulance is turned away from a hospital because of ambulance diversion, according the Institute of Medicine. And as The Washington Post reports, even in the ERs in the nation's capital are not immune to from having to go on ambulance diversion.
Studies show that ambulance diversion can have a significant impact on patient care. A study from New York City boroughs found the mortality rate from heart attacks increased by 47 percent on days when hospitals were on diversion. Another study showed that when more than 60 percent of area hospitals are on diversion, median treatment time for heart attacks increased by almost 10 minutes. In Houston, the mortality rate of patients with severe injuries requiring inter-hospital transfer was more than 10 percent higher on “high-diversion” days (14 percent on low diversion days; 25 percent on high diversion days).
As reported in the Annuals of Emergency Medicine, the most common reason for a hospital to go on ambulance diversion is there are no appropriate inpatient beds, this is followed by a high number of ER patients and complexity of patient cases. Staffing shortages and equipment failure were less common.
If passed by Congress, the Access to Emergency Medical Services Act can help address the practice of ambulance diversion. Take action now by contacting your legislators today to urge their co-sponsorship of this important legislation and to hold hearings on the critical state of emergency care.