Hospital beds 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As the cold season arrives and hospital emergency rooms and internal medicine
departments brace themselves for serious overcrowding, a new study has shown
that controlling patient flow properly can make the most of existing staff and
Research at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in
Beersheba, the Health Ministry and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, published
in the November issue of the journal Health Policy and Planning of the Oxford
University Press, uses the lessons of the Second Lebanon War in July 2006 to
offer solutions for overworked emergency emergency departments.
Bruria Adini of the emergency medicine department at BGU’s Faculty of Health
Sciences and her colleagues Robert Cohen, Daniel Laor and Prof. Avi Israeli of
the Health Ministry and HU studied patient flow at three urban hospitals in the
area that was exposed for a month to 80 missiles from the Gaza
Monitoring the patient flow, the ministry ordered emergency
medical services, doctors, health funds and others to send victims with severe
conflict-related wounds to the level-one trauma hospital in the area, and to
divert others with mild injuries or non-conflict related conditions such as
illnesses or birth to two smaller hospitals. A statistical analysis of the
patient flow during the war revealed that there was a significant redirection of
cases to the hospitals after the ministry’s announcement.
factors contributed to the ability of the health authorities to direct the
patient flow – the ongoing monitoring and interventions made by the ministry,
and a centralized emergency medical service system. This situation may not be
common in all countries; however, the process by which the decisions with regard
to patient flow were taken and implemented could be applicable to other types of
health care systems,” the authors wrote.
Taking into account that the
vast majority of emergency department patients walk in and are not brought in by
ambulances, Adini and colleagues suggested that even greater flow control could
have been achieved if the ministry had made the public aware of the different
hospitals’ strengths and services.
“Effective utilization of scarce
resources is a crucial component of emergency management and can directly
influence on the ability of hospitals to treat casualties and save lives.
Control of patient flow is an important facilitator towards achieving this
goal,” she said.