Thursday, August 15, 2002

Hospital diversions increase from 2001

By Tim Bonfield,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The pace of hospital diversions in the Tristate has slowed a notch, but still remains ahead of last year's record pace.

        In July, Tristate hospitals went “on diversion” 68 times, which meant they asked life squads to carry as many stable patients as possible somewhere else for all or part of an eight-hour shift. That's down from 78 diversions in July 2001, according to the Greater Cincinnati Health Council.

        For the year, hospitals have declared 613 diversions, up 16 percent from 527 declared through July 2001. In 2000, hospitals went on diversion 126 times through July.

        Bottom line: hospitals are still struggling to hire and retain enough staff to meet rising demand for care, said Colleen O'Toole, vice president of the health council.

        Starting this month, the health council has switched to a new electronic notification system that can send e-mail or pager messages when hospitals go on diversion. Previously, hospital staff had to make many phone calls to get the word out.

        While the system is expected to speed up notification, it also will change how diversions are tracked.

        By tracking hours spent on diversion instead of shifts, the system will be more accurate — but it also means that the pace of diversions for the rest of this year will not be comparable to previous years, Ms. O'Toole said.


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