Friday, January 18, 2002

Hospitals offer patients brochure about diversions

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For more than a year, thousands of sick and injured Tristate residents have found themselves on the receiving end of a “hospital diversion.”

        Now, people can learn what's going on from a new brochure to be distributed at area hospitals and via the Internet. The publication, “How Hospital Diversions Affect You,” was approved this week by the Greater Cincinnati Ambulance Diversion Task Force.

        Diversions occur when overcrowded or understaffed hospitals ask life squads to take patients elsewhere for emergency care. Tristate hospitals declared more than 700 diversions last year.

        “We hope that this information will provide some background so that if a patient is in a situation that involves a diversion, they will be assured that they can still get the care they need,” said Colleen O'Toole, vice president of the Greater Cincinnati Health Council.The document says insurers generally will pay when a patient is diverted to a non-network hospital. Also, unstable or extreme cases still go to the closest hospital.

        Ambulances will take patients to a hospital on diversion, if they insist. However, “you may have a lengthy wait,” the document states.

        So why not “just add more beds and hire more people?”

        “It would be great if the situation were that simple,” the brochure states. “The Cincinnati area, like many other large metropolitan areas, is experiencing a shortage of qualified medical personnel such as nurses. Also, a number of hospitals have closed and the others have actually had to cut back on beds and monitoring equipment because of decreasing health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals ...

        “Therefore, there are times when hospitals may have beds, but do not have the qualified personnel to take care of all the patients.”


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