Several prominent senators introduced legislation to coordinate the efforts of the nation's safety-net providers, including teaching hospitals and rural health centers, through a newly created independent commission. The legislation surfaced the same day as a General Accounting Office report indicating that more than two-thirds of hospitals diverted ambulances to other facilities at some point during 2001, and one in 10 hospitals reported being on diversion status for more than 20% of the year. According to the GAO, the main reasons hospitals said they sometimes didn't have enough inpatient beds to meet demand were economic incentives to staff only the number of beds that would almost always be full and competition for available beds with scheduled admissions, such as surgery patients. The Senate bill would create the Safety Net Organizations and Patient Advisory Commission to "find solutions to streamline and strengthen the healthcare safety net," according to the office of its chief sponsor, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.). Other sponsors are Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and James Jeffords (I-Vt.). The report is available at the GAO Web site, www.gao.gov. -- by Jeff Tieman
Panel proposed to coordinate safety-net providers
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