The Riverside County Board of Supervisors may study the issue of delayed ambulance arrivals in Riverside County hospitals, according to a recent report by the county civil grand jury. The report claims that such delays compromise patient safety, as they prevent paramedics from answering emergency calls and disrupt patient care. The pandemic made this problem “more visible,” but it is not new. The county plans to respond to the report formally within 90 days, according to Brooke Federico, a county spokesperson.
This issue comes amid healthcare-related challenges affecting both hospitals and ambulance companies. Nursing and paramedic retention rates are low due to program cancellations and the retirement of many healthcare workers. In March 2021, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors denied a contract extension to American Medical Response, the county’s ambulance provider, for failing to meet 911 response time standards. AMR executives assured the board that they were tackling the problem by increasing overtime and funding school scholarships for paramedics.
Ambulances must wait with the patient until the hospital takes care of them. The worst hospitals for meeting the 2022 response time criteria are Riverside Community Hospital and Kaiser. However, other hospitals such as Temecula Valley and Corona Regional Medical Center showed improvements in emergency department wait times, and Kaiser is working on increasing staff and adding a new tower to ease unloading delays. Hemet and Menifee hospitals, owned by KPC Health, did not comment on the matter.
To minimize ambulance unloading delays, the grand jury recommended that county regulators “review, approve, and support” delay reduction programs. The jury further suggested that AMR and the county fire department should use additional available staff to help paramedics who accompany patients in hospitals to return to duty more efficiently.