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Legislation to Combat Deadly Ambulance Diversions Introduced in House

Photo by A.J. Heightman

WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) has introduced legislation to study, and ultimately find ways to reduce, the number of ambulance diversions taking place in Chicago and throughout the country.

The practice of ambulance diversions leads to worse health outcomes for patients, and often disproportionately affects minority patients as well as those who are older, sicker and poorer, Rush said.

Related: The Impact of Hospital Overcrowding on EMS Crews

H.R. 5727, the Research Empirical Solutions to End Ambulance Reversals from Closed Hospitals (RESEARCH) Act of 2020,would direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Academy of Medicine to conduct a broad study on ambulance diversions to determine whether such diversions have increased in the last ten years, whether such diversions negatively impact underserved and minority communities and what steps the federal government can take to address the issue. The RESEARCH Act would also require hospitals to report such diversions to HHS.

Related: Oversight of Illinois Ambulance Diversion Flawed, Report Says

“I was deeply disturbed to learn that people in my district, particularly African-Americans and other minorities, are literally dying as a result of ambulance diversions. I find it personally painful that dozens of people — in the richest country in the world no less — have lost their lives as a result of this questionable practice. Tragically, that number is likely higher given the appalling and abhorrent lack of reporting requirements,” said Rush. “With the introduction of the RESEARCH Act, we take the first step in putting an end to this often-overlooked injustice by requiring that hospitals record and report this critical information in a timely manner so that we may better understand the breadth and depth of this systemic issue.”

There is no federal agency that is currently tasked with tracking the number of ambulance diversions nationwide.  The RESEARCH Act would change this by not only systematically studying the issue but also by requiring hospitals to report the following information should they implement any such diversions:

  • How long the diversion was in effect;
  • The reason for the diversion; and
  • The number of ambulance calls the hospital diverted while the diversion was in effect.