It is well documented that racial and ethnic minority populations disproportionately use hospital emergency departments for safety-net care. But what is not known is whether emergency department crowding is disproportionately affecting minority populations and potentially aggravating existing health care disparities, including poorer outcomes for minorities.
These researchers examined ambulance diversion, a proxy measure for crowding, at 202 California hospitals. They found that hospitals serving large minority populations were more likely to divert ambulances than were hospitals with a lower proportion of minorities, even when controlling for hospital ownership, emergency department capacity, and other hospital demographic and structural factors.
These findings suggest that establishing more uniform criteria to regulate diversion may help reduce disparities in access to emergency care.