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County-USC emergency room 'dangerously overcrowded' in May

Report says hospital's emergency room was crowded more than 10% of last month — up from 2% in April. An official says the flow of patients is steady, but they are sicker and take longer to treat.

June 23, 2010|By Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times

The emergency room at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center was "dangerously overcrowded" for more than 10% of the month of May, according to a report submitted Tuesday to the county Board of Supervisors.

The overcrowding — up from less than 2% of the time in April — drew a sharp rebuke from Supervisor Gloria Molina.

"I think we're having a real problem. This is a serious situation," said Molina, whose district includes County-USC, just east of downtown in Boyle Heights.

The overcrowding is not the first that County-USC has experienced since it moved into a new, smaller facility in November 2008.

The $1.02-billion hospital has a bigger emergency room with 40% more beds, but 25% fewer beds for patients admitted to the hospital.

The old hospital could admit as many as 824 patients, while the new facility has a maximum capacity of 600 patients, which critics said was not enough to meet the demand for public hospital services.

Between December 2008 and April 2009, and again in October 2009, the emergency room was found to be dangerously overcrowded by county standards for more than 10% of the time.

Carol Meyer, the health services department's chief network officer, said the number of admissions to County-USC's emergency room has been steady. But patients are coming in sicker, she said, requiring more time for treatment.

Severely ill patients cannot be transferred to other hospitals, Meyer said, until they are stabilized.

In May, county health officials received a complaint from an emergency room patient who said she left County-USC's emergency room without seeing a doctor after more than eight hours.

County officials said the average wait time at County-USC's emergency room is nine hours and disputed the accuracy of her complaint.

ron.lin@latimes.com

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