Hospitals Crowded with ERs Turning Away Ambulances

OCTOBER 9, 2006 - Posted at 8:00 a.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS, MO - Five years ago, St. Louis-area hospitals vowed to cut down on the number of ambulances turned away by their emergency departments.

But now, "The St. Louis Post Dispatch" reports that many hospitals are still regularly turning away ambulances.

The newspaper's analysis found that on one night in February, more than half of the hospitals turned away ambulances at the same time.

In all of St. Charles County, the only ER open was at a psychiatric facility in Wentzville.

Hospitals are required to access and stablize every patient who comes to them.

But to manage crowding, administrators sometimes redirect ambulance crews headed their way.

Experts say diversions can be disastrous and time-consuming, delaying care to a patient, and making an ambulance unavailable for someone else.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)