Posted on August 24, 2004

Domino Effect Feared From Closures of Emergency Rooms

Jason Felch, L. A. Times, Aug. 24

Los Angeles County, which has lost six emergency rooms in a little over a year, is on the brink of a far more serious problem, facing more closures that could jeopardize emergency care for tens of thousands of residents, according to public officials and independent analysts.

The next round of cuts is expected to target large, heavily used emergency rooms at private hospitals. If they proceed as expected, they will reduce by a further 10% to 15% the county’s emergency room capacity, which already has lost the ability to serve 75,000 patients in the last 14 months, hospital and healthcare officials say.

“We’re cutting off limbs to stay alive,” said Jim Lott, executive vice president of the Hospital Assn. of Southern California.

Public officials and some healthcare economists warn that further closures of large emergency rooms could set off a chain reaction. As uninsured patients move from closed emergency rooms to others that are already under financial strain, those facilities too could close.