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Hospital Diversion Issue: Letter to EMS Providers

Dear EMS Providers,

Today, the Southwest Virginia EMS Council received multiple communications from members of the EMS community regarding hospital diversion declarations in our region.  While hospital diversions are intended to address temporary periods when a hospital’s resources are overwhelmed, we know that the incidence of diversion has increased and creates a strain on the EMS system.  Such declarations also create hostility between prehospital and hospital employees.

We want to affirm regional EMS policies regarding hospital diversion and direct EMS agencies and providers to adhere to provisions of the regional Ambulance Diversion Policy.  When adjacent facilities declare diversion, it is permissible for EMS agencies to disregard those declarations, especially when increased travel time places communities and citizens at risk.  If you encounter issues, direct those to our office.  We will not tolerate aggressive or rude treatment of EMS providers following this policy and will deal swiftly with these incidents.

I ask that in making destination determinations, we place the outcome of our patients at the center of our decision processes.  Unstable patients always necessitate transport to the closest facility.  At times, EMS providers should recognize that the best interests of the patient are served by bypassing facilities that are on diversion.  While the increased incidence of declared diversion creates a strain on the EMS system, let us be mindful that the circumstances are not created by emergency department staff members.  They are simply trying to provide the best care possible in less than ideal circumstances.  We are all partners in producing the most positive outcome for our patients.

I have notified administrators at Johnston Memorial Hospital and Bristol Regional Medical Center that we are reminding EMS agencies and providers about regional policies that support their decisions to disregard diversion declarations.  I have asked that they educate emergency department staff members about these issues.  Likewise, I have called for both facilities to immediately address this issue, which has gotten out of hand.  I have offered our assistance in helping find solutions. 

If we can do anything to assist you, please contact me.  Reach out to us any time this issue impacts your agency, and we will work to resolve the matter.

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