The Board of Supervisors next week will consider whether to assign a standing committee to research and find potential solutions to the “significant and detrimentally impactful” problem of delays at hospitals throughout Riverside County in accepting patients brought in by ambulance.
Incoming board Chairman Jeff Hewitt and Supervisor Kevin Jeffries are seeking the full board’s approval to allow them, as members of the Fire Ad-Hoc Committee, to investigate why the practice of patient offloading is faltering and how it might be remedied.
“Over the past several years, ambulance patient offload delays have progressively worsened and continue to negatively impact the response capabilities of emergency ambulance providers and first responders,” Hewitt and Jeffries wrote in a joint statement, posted to the Tuesday agenda.
“Patients having to remain on the ambulance gurney for several hours after arrival at the hospital is now commonplace at some hospitals.”
According to the supervisors, the county’s target maximum time for a person to lie in an ambulance after arriving at a medical facility is 30 minutes.
“When ambulances are on offload delay at hospitals, the 911 system has fewer ambulances available for emergency medical calls, response time for ambulances are increased and first responders are forced to wait on the scene longer, which in turn reduces the response capabilities of first responders,” the supervisors said. “Ultimately, ambulance patient offload delays interfere with timely and effective emergency medical care.”
Countywide delays in offloading was highlighted during the late fall of 2020 amid the coronavirus surge, when hospitals were experiencing major challenges finding triage and bed space. However, the supervisors now believe the problem may be systemic and goes beyond demands placed on the hospital system by COVID-19.
They said some measures have been implemented to solve the problem, including better communication between ambulance companies’ supervisors and hospital administrators, as well as the collection of weekly and monthly tracking data and reports connected to offloading that are circulated among administrators to underscore deficiencies.
“Unfortunately, some hospitals continue to escalate ambulance patient offload delays despite the mitigation activities,” the supervisors said. “The problem has never been more significant and detrimentally impactful to the emergency management system. Additional measures to mitigate the problem and ensure consistent 911 ambulance response times are required.”
Hewitt and Jeffries said they would like the Fire Ad-Hoc Committee to delve into the matter and return to the board with a report on proposed solutions within a few months.