Tuesday, February 15, 2005

UTMB Emergency Department to Send Less Sick Patients "Elsewhere"

A new sign of how hospitals are turning away from their traditional mission in response to financial pressure: The Houston Chronicle reported that the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston will start pre-screening patients who go to their Emergency Department (ED), and will turn away patients deemed not sick enough to need emergency care. Such patients will apparently be told how to get care "elsewhere." The article did not address how difficult it might be to get to "elsewhere," or how rapidly they might be seen there.
This policy should be distinguished from the on-site services many EDs maintain (sometimes called walk-in, fast-lane, or the like) to see less sick patients in settings that are less intense than the regular ED, but are located in proximity to it.
The policy was inspired by how the University of Colorado Health Science Center in Denver ED has operated, not without controversy, since 2002.

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