Is California’s Hospital-Based ED System Eroding?

Glenn Melnick
Katya Fonkych


This is archived content; for historical reference only.

Although the number of emergency departments (EDs) in California hospitals has declined in the past decade, some hospitals have expanded their ED bed capacity. This issue brief analyzes trends in the use and size of the state’s hospital-based EDs from 1996 to 2007.

The research indicates that worsening severity of illness may be a greater factor in the problem of ED overcrowding than the growing volume of patients. Among the findings:

  • The supply of California ED beds grew by 17% between 2001 and 2007, while population rose 6% and ED visits increased 2%.
  • A higher proportion of ED patients are more severely ill, and a greater share of ED visits results in hospital admission.
  • The number of ED visits considered nonemergency has increased.

In addition to a statewide overview, the publication includes an analysis of ED capacity and demand in each of the state’s 10 largest counties.

The complete issue brief is available under Document Downloads.