Cleveland ERs to stop ambulance diversions

The four major hospital systems in Cleveland have agreed to stop closing their emergency departments (EDs) to ambulances when they get overloaded. They say they'll accept all ambulances beginning Feb. 15, NPR reported

University Hospitals closed the emergency department at its main campus to ambulances for more than 550 hours during 2015, NPR reported. MetroHealth diverted ambulances for more than 400 hours during the year--but that's down from nearly 1,000 in 2013.

Although other EDs are within a few minutes' drive in Cleveland, one study showed that diverting ambulances increases one-year mortality rates for cardiac patients and reduces access to cardiac care, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

In the NPR article, Jane Dus, chief nursing officer at University Hospitals, blames the problem on an aging population, hospital closures and a 56 percent increase in visits from ambulances and rescue squads over five years.

The Cleveland Clinic rarely diverted ambulances in 2015 after tackling the issue following more than 500 hours of diversions in 2013, according to the article. Regional Cleveland Clinic hospitals do divert ambulances, though, and one ER official said the organizations need to find efficiencies to stop relying on diversions.

A small hospital in downtown Cleveland, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, hasn't diverted ambulances since 2012.

Cleveland is one of few U.S. cities to try to voluntarily end ambulance diversions, NPR reported. Massachusetts bans such diversions by law, according to the article.

Other cities like Reno, Nevada, are trying to tackle the issue by having paramedics conduct home visits and redirect some patients to urgent care centers, mental health clinics and nurse phone lines. Officials in Reno said they saved $5.5 million over two years and avoided nearly 3,500 ED visits and 674 ambulance trips, FierceHealthcare reported.                                                                                        

To learn more:
- check out the NPR story