A report delivered by a private contractor to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors indicated that the new Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center would have to run at a high degree of efficiency in order to weather a surge in patient arrivals.
The report showed that unless the hospital operated at a 95 percent utilization rate, a patient surge of even five percent could increase wait times past acceptable levels.
Though theoretically possible, the supervisors expressed concern that the high utilization rate might not be attainable.
According to the terms of a 2005 settlement to a lawsuit brought against the county, the time from when a physician writes the order to admit a patient to the time when that patient is placed in an inpatient bed must be kept to under seven hours.
The utilization rate refers to the amount of time that a bed is occupied; a 96 percent utilization rate indicates that the bed is occupied for 22.8 hours out of every 24.
Given an average length of stay per patient of 3.5 days, that would provide for 4.2 hours to turn over a bed, while County-USC employees take just two hours to turn over a bed.
No date was available on what the utilization rate of the current County-USC facility is, which caused frustration among the supervisors. Like other hospitals throughout the state, patient load at the current hospital is measured in terms of occupancy, which is simply a tally of how many beds are occupied at a given time.
On a motion by Supervisor Don Knabe, the board called for a contingency plan to be created in case the hospital fails to meet the 95 percent threshold and for the Department of Health Services to engage hospitals that could be impacted should patients need to be diverted from the new facility.