When a hospital re-opens, how will it affect patients and providers?

Amid new research on how hospital closures affect patient outcomes, the Los Angeles area is about to provide a case study for the next step in that process--when a once-closed hospital reopens in an altered healthcare environment.

The Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center closed its doors in 2007 after a series of treatment lapses earned it the nickname "Killer King" and caused the federal government to pull its funding, the L.A. Times reports. The facility had been a pillar of L.A.'s black community, at one point treating 47,000 patients per year in its emergency department (ED).

When King reopens this summer, hospital administrators told the L.A. Times they expect the ED to see 32,000 annual visits. Unlike its predecessor, though, the new hospital will not include a trauma center, and in accordance with the Affordable Care Act's push to curtail ED overuse, King's campus will include public health and urgent care psychiatric centers aimed at diverting patients from inpatient care.

However, 75 percent of physicians report that ED volume actually has increased since the ACA's healthcare mandate took effect, according to new report from the American College of Emergency Physicians. And Los Angeles County is no exception to this national trend, as many patients covered under Medi-Cal end up in the ED because they can't get primary care appointments, according to the L.A. Times.

When the King hospital closed, patient volume rose by more than 20 percent at surrounding hospitals' EDs, according to the article, which noted that these hospitals were largely able to handle the increase in volume by simply adding clinical staff.

But surrounding hospitals don't seem to be worried about the renewed competition. Brian Johnston, an ED physician at nearby White Memorial, said his department will closely monitor its patient volume once King reopens, but indicated he wasn't fearful about losing too many patients. 

To learn more:
- read the article