Friday, June 07, 2002

Crowding disrupts surgeries

By Tim Bonfield,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        On one hand, it was only one hospital out of 29 in Greater Cincinnati that had to reschedule less than 20 percent of the surgeries it had planned for the day.

        And even if the 11 people whose elective operations were delayed Wednesday by University Hospital were annoyed, they also were understanding and cooperative. None is expected to be harmed by the disruption.

        On the other hand, it was the first time in at least five years that the city's only adult trauma center had to resort to such a step to relieve the increasingly frequent traffic jams of patients waiting for hospital beds.

        The episode raises fresh questions about whether Tristate health resources are distributed in ways that best meet health needs, said Dr. James Hurst, the recently installed executive director of University Hospital.

        “Do we need additional inpatient capacity? Do we need more ORs?” Dr. Hurst asked. “Do we have the financial resources? Do we have enough available talent?”

        “We are looking at all of our options and we are certainly open to suggestions. But (eliminating the traffic jams) is certainly not something that can be accomplished in the next few months,” Dr. Hurst said.

        The rescheduled surgeries were the climax of a patient backup that had been building all Tuesday.

        University Hospital was “on diversion” from midnight through 11 p.m. Tuesday, which means it asked ambulances to take non-life-threatening cases somewhere else.

        But the hospital never diverts trauma, burns or organ transplants, so it stayed busy.

        The only way to ease the backup was to reschedule elective cases that required overnight recovery. Elective surgeries include a wide range of operations from minor problems to life-threatening conditions that do not need to be done immediately.

        Even with the reschedulings, the hospital went on diversion again from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday.

        “I wish I could say it will never happen again, but I can't,” Dr. Hurst said.


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