For-profit hospitals at higher risk for closing ERs

For-profit hospitals and hospitals that serve black and Medicaid patients are more likely to close their emergency departments (ED) in California, according to a study published today in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. Fewer EDs were located in areas of poorly insured residents, and hospitals were more likely to add emergency capacity in suburban areas serving patients with private insurance, according to researchers of a retrospective study.

Researchers looked at data from California hospitals from 1998 to 2008, a time when 7.2 percent of EDs in the state had closed. They found that for-profit hospitals had 65 percent higher odds of closing than nonprofit hospitals. 

Minorities and Medicaid patients, in particular, were at a higher risk of losing access to EDs, according to researchers. For every 10 percent increase in black patients served, the odds of a hospital's ER closing increased by 40 percent.  For every 10 percent increase in Medicaid patients, the odds of its ER closing rose by 17 percent. 

"Emergency department closures disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, but there are system-wide ripple effects felt everywhere," study author Renee Hsia of the University of California, San Francisco said in the press release. "Future research on emergency department closures must examine their impact on health outcomes. It is concerning that the very populations who most rely on emergency services may experience declines in access to emergency care."

To learn more:
- read the press release

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