Four Cleveland hospital systems are planning to stop diverting ambulances and closing emergency rooms during busy times.
The agreement was reached earlier this month between the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, MetroHealth and St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, the Plain Dealer reported. The plan is expected to fully go into effect on Feb. 15.
Hospital officials say the agreement to end so-called diversions will help guarantee patients are treated close to their homes, where they'll have a history with the hospital.
"The key to getting good outcomes, especially in the first six to 24 hours, is minimizing the time it takes to get somebody stabilized...and to the final destination of care in as little time as possible," said Dr. Al Connors, chief medical officer at MetroHealth. "It requires collaboration among the first responders and all the hospitals to do that."
The hospitals have seen more emergency room activity as smaller facilities have closed in recent years.
City leaders say the hospitals will be able to collaborate better on other issues too, such as the region's high infant mortality and ongoing gun violence.
Ed Eckart, the city's assistant safety commissioner, said the hospitals have seemed hesitant to discuss the issues with each other out of fears they would reveal their weaknesses or business strategies.
Hospital officials said the plan will be implemented gradually in the coming months. One hospital will be allowed at a time to close its emergency room to ambulances. The shutdown cannot last longer than four hours though, and the hospital cannot do so again for eight hours. Hospitals may have to add more staff or change internal protocols in order to handle the traffic.
"We have a lot of medical capacity in this city and a lot of talented people, and I think we can do this," said Dr. Robert Wyllie, chief of medical operations at the Cleveland Clinic.