Emergency departments closing despite need

June 25, 2011

Twenty-seven percent of the hospital departments in urban and suburban areas have closed in the past 20 years, according to a new study.

Twenty-seven percent of the hospital emergency departments (EDs) in urban and suburban areas have closed in the past 20 years, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In 1990, 2,446 hospitals in nonrural areas had EDs. By 2009 that number had fallen to 1,779, a decline of 27.2%. The drop occurred even as the total number of ED visits nationwide increased by 35%. Rural hospitals were excluded from the study because some operate under federal mandate.

Departments at commercial hospitals that served large numbers of poor, that were at hospitals with lean profit margins, or were in highly competitive markets were the most likely to close, the study found.