One third of ERs have closed in past twenty years, study says

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that almost a third of ERs in the United States closed over the past two decades.

From 1990 to 2009, the number of hospital emergency departments in urban areas declined by 27 percent. Meanwhile patient visits to the ER have increased by more than 35 percent, HealthDay reports.

The researchers explain that being located in for-profit hospitals, competition and low profit margins are all factors that led to closures.

Data on ER closures was collected from the American Hospital Association for the twenty year period. This information was then merged with financial data on individual hospitals and patients, including whether the patient was insured or uninsured.

The study found that between 1990 and 2009, the number of emergency departments in nonrural hospitals dropped significantly from 2,446 to 1,770. While over 1,000 ERs closed during this period, only 374 new ERs opened.

Dr. Renee Y. Hsia, lead study author and a professor of emergency medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, explains that consequences include increased crowding and longer wait times at open ERs.

The study is available here.

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