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New L.A. Co.+USC Med Center overwhelmed?

August 26, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
It opened less than a year ago, but at least one county official says the new emergency room at Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center is already overwhelmed and may be ill-equipped to handle a countywide emergency. The hospital is located at 1200 North State Street in Boyle Heights and is the main trauma center for Los Angeles County, handling 200,000 emergency department visits each year.

Officials said the new ER would help ease overcrowding. However some visiting the ER might disagree.

"It looks absolutely packed to the gills crowded. People waiting forever," said Donald May, who was at the ER.

A new report issued by the Department of Health Services says some patients are often transferred out to deal with the overcrowding. Los Angeles County Board Supervisor Gloria Molina worries what will happen after a disaster, like an earthquake.

"Right now we're severely overcrowded ... in normal situations. We're nervous about abnormal," said Molina.

"We've seen about a 20 percent, 17 to 20-percent increase in ER visits in the last twelve months," said Pete Delgado, CEO, Los Angeles County USC Medical Center.

There are 109 beds in the emergency room, making it one of the largest in the country. But treating and releasing patients is still slow. Delgado says the problem is many people without health insurance come in for things that are not emergencies.

"Unfortunately the patients that are not urgent have to wait. Patients that are trauma, that are coming with a heart attack, things that are very urgent ... we see them right away," said Delgado.

When a patient comes into L.A. County+USC's emergency room, the turnaround time is about four hours. Officials say the ideal time should be about two to three hours.

"We need to understand if the goal was to turn a bed around in two to three hours ... when will they get there?" said Molina. "They haven't decided when and we need to know that."

Hospital officials say that wait times are down significantly and they continue to improve. They say they expect a better review in the next report in two months.

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