County-USC hospital’s severe overcrowding worsens

Severe and dangerous overcrowding is getting worse at the emergency room at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, the county’s flagship hospital, despite increased transfers of patients to other hospitals, according to a report presented Tuesday to the Board of Supervisors.

Already, County- USC’s emergency room is considered overcrowded more than 80% of the time, a percentage that rose slightly from May to June. But during that period, dangerous overcrowding rose from about 11% to 15%, and severe overcrowding rose from about 38% to 47%.

County-USC hospital: An article in Wednesday’s LATExtra section about worsening overcrowding at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center said county supervisors approved a motion in June to study the addition of 150 beds to the hospital. In fact, the supervisors approved the motion in July. —

As a result, waiting times — already very long — continue to increase. In June, it took an average of 15 hours for an emergency room patient to get a bed in an inpatient ward once a decision to admit was made. In May, that wait time was 14 hours.

“I am concerned. The spike is pretty high. … This has been the third consecutive month with a very, very high spike in the serious and dangerous overcrowding,” said Supervisor Gloria Molina, whose district includes County-USC, which is in Boyle Heights just northeast of downtown Los Angeles.

The worsening overcrowding is not a result of more patients but partly because the patients coming in are more critically ill, said Carol Meyer, chief network officer for the county Department of Health Services, which runs County-USC and prepared the report. For example, patients were staying at the hospital longer, from an average of 5.5 days in May to 6 days in June.

Another factor is the summertime influx of new medical residents, or doctors in training, who are unfamiliar with County-USC’s layout and learning where to go to request X-rays and lab tests.

“The experienced medical residents are moving out of the facilities, and brand-new medical residents come into the facilities …. Everything sort of slows down,” Meyer said.

The hospital has increased the number of patients it is sending to other hospitals, transferring 209 to another county hospital and private facilities, up from an average of 167 a month over the last six months.

In July, an independent draft report concluded that the 600-bed County-USC is the only county hospital too small to meet patient demand, needing at least 97 more beds. The $1.02-billion hospital opened less than two years ago.

Supervisors in June approved a motion to study the addition of 150 beds to County-USC, but it is unclear where the county would obtain the funding to construct and operate a new hospital wing.