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  The Minority/ Black Health Blog  

Monday, April 18, 2016

Why Black Heart Attack Victims Are More Likely to Be Turned Away By the Emergency Room

African American heart attack victim

When a heart attack occurs, time is of the essence. The chances of survival often depends on how quickly medical assistance is provided. This is why a recent report is so shocking. It shows that nearly half of black patients having heart attacks were not taken to the nearest hospital but to one further away, increasing their risk of death within a year.

Ambulance diversion adds up to 12 hours before being treated

Researchers examined Medicare data and found that among black patients being transported to the hospital for treatment of heart attacks in 26 California counties, only half of the black patients received treatment at the nearest hospital. Twenty-five percent were taken to another hospital, causing a delay of up to 6 hours, 15 percent experienced delays of 6-12 hours, and 10 percent had more than 12 hours of delay due to ambulance diversion, according to the study.

But why?

The reason given for the diversions was overcrowding. The emergency rooms at the nearest hospitals were overcrowded, so ambulances took black heart attack patients to other hospitals for treatment. Diversion occurs more often at hospitals that serve blacks and other minorities. As a result, few receive proper treatment for heart attacks.
  • 4.4 percent less likely to be treated in cardiac care units
  • 4.3 percent less likely to receive catheterization
  • 9.6 percent more likely to die during the following year

Dr. Renee Hsia, a professor of emergency medicine and health policy at the University of California, San Francisco, and others have stated that changes must be made. Hsia recommended "decreasing disparities by targeting efforts in minority-serving hospitals." All hospitals need help in correcting overcrowding, but the study reveals the importance of focusing efforts first on hospitals that serve minorities.

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