Black Patients Have Longer Wait Times for ICU Beds Than Patients of Other Races, Study Finds
Black patients wait longer for hospital beds after being admitted into the emergency department than patients of other races, according to a study published in the February issue of Academic Emergency Medicine, Reuters Health reports. For the study, Jesse Pines of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues examined data from 408 emergency departments nationwide, finding that black ED patients on average waited 367 minutes to be admitted to ICU, compared with 290 minutes for patients of other races. Blacks waited 397 minutes for a non-ICU bed, compared with 345 minutes for other races.
According to researchers, most of this disparity is linked to the fact that hospitals that treat a large proportion of black patients tend to have longer wait times in general. However, blacks also were 42% more likely to have to wait six hours or more for an ICU bed than ED patients of other races in the same hospital, according to the study. The racial disparity was greater among those most sick or injured.
Pines said, "Our findings may actually explain some of the worse outcomes that we see in black populations," adding that the "longer people stay in the ED, the more likely they are to die." Researchers note that it is particularly concerning that some hospitals give priority for hospital beds to insured patients undergoing elective procedure. "These measures will only worsen disparities for minorities," senior researcher Judd Hollander said. "Congress needs to make certain that 'not-for-profit' hospitals do not compromise patient care in pursuit of greater profits," he added (Reuters Health, 3/19).
An abstract of the study is available online.