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Report: Ambulances Slowed by Filled-to-Capacity Hospitals

The delays added up to 37,000 hours last year alone.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

Hospital bed shortages delayed Los Angeles Fire Department ambulance crews nearly 37,000 hours last year, costing the city about $6 million, according to a report presented to the Fire Commission today.

Ambulance crews aim to spend no more than 20 minutes dropping patients off at hospitals, but often must wait longer due to a lack of beds, fire officials said. The number of hours wasted in 2013 -- 36,627 -- is equivalent to parking four or more ambulances at one hospital every day, they said.

Often called "wall-time," the delays -- a common problem at many fire departments across the state -- prevent ambulances from responding to other 911 calls, according to a staff report.

The Los Angeles Fire Department, which delivers patients to 57 hospitals throughout the region, has dealt with the issue with "various levels of success" over the past decade, according to the report, but last year's figures indicated that overcrowding at hospitals has intensified.

The number of hours ambulance crews were delayed went up almost 30 percent from 2012 to 2013, even as the number of ambulance transports and medical emergencies inched up by a little less than 2 percent.

Officials estimate last year's delays -- based on a $165-an-hour rate for department ambulances -- cost the city $6 million.

In recent months, the fire department has met with hospital officials in an effort reduce the delays.

Fire officials are also part of a coalition, which includes the California EMS Authority and the California Hospital Association, that is working to come up with solutions.

The coalition is expected to release in the coming months a "resource tool kit" to aid hospitals and ambulances in cutting wait times, fire officials said.

Fire department staff also reported today that they are working to reduce the number of "super-user" patients who request emergency medical services more than most.

In 2013, 20 patients contacted the department a total of 2,049 times and were transported 1,375 times, fire officials said.

Fire officials said they are exploring options such as staffing dispatch centers with nurses to help resolve medical issues over the phone, rather than by sending out ambulances.

--City News Service

karen April 24, 2014 at 04:04 PM
It's called "Obama Care". The ER is getting over crowded due to non emergency usage of "Coughs and colds." The number of lic. inpatient beds have been reduced through the government. A lot of MD's are not providers on the "Obamacare" and also many MD's are not taking any new "Medicare patients" due to the low reimbursement rate on medicace policies.
lorrie mcvicker April 24, 2014 at 09:37 PM
Maybe we should have a clinic in every emergency room to cover the non emergency patients. Oh wait that might solve the problem and why would the government want to do that. I realize that would cost money, but I don't want to hear the government is broke. It always finds money for worthless stuff. Am I all alone in this thinking?
D. Jude April 25, 2014 at 02:25 AM
The answer to this situation is so SIMPLE~~!! You do like the other cities do outside the city of los angeles.....you only use the LAFD paramedics to arrive on the scene of their call and after stabilizing the patient you have private ambulance services ( McCormick, Shaefer, etic) do the transporting and the Emergency room waiting and in the meantimne the LAFD paramedics are back back on duty right away to handle more emergency calls. Private ambulance paramedics cost half the wages the taxpayers are spending on the LAFD. But in L.A. it will never happen because the average Fireman is making over $100,000 a year with overtime and their Fat Cat Union will never allow the Mayor to make changes. As taxpayer's..we are being ""Extorted" by the LAFD ~~!! It's all about Money and EGO~~!!!
D. Jude April 25, 2014 at 02:29 AM
one more thing...i have always been an advocate for "privatizing these city services and make a percentage of their work force a Volunteer work force like tey do in other not so large cities in the U.S. It has been proven time and time again that the private sector is more cost effective in getting th job done than the above mentioned L.A. City "Fat Cat" Union Employees~~!!
lorrie mcvicker April 25, 2014 at 06:49 PM
D. Jude, you are so right. You have good idea's. Let's just hope that solutions can be made before lives are lost and care becomes more inadequate. Maybe us taxpayers need to stand up and be heard. Voting isn't working. We have no good candidates.


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