July 8, 2003


New National Program Gears Up To Help Emergency Departments
UCSD and CHIP among 10 Participating Sites

UCSD Medical Center, Hillcrest, is one of 10 hospital systems in the nation and the only facility in California selected for the Urgent Matters program, a national learning network designed to find solutions to the growing emergency department overcrowding crisis. The Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP) was selected as the community-based collaborator in San Diego.

Urgent Matters is a new initiative launched by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to address the growing problem of emergency department crowding and raise awareness in local communities about the challenges facing the health care safety net (the network of providers of low-cost or free medical care to people who are uninsured or underinsured).

Emergency departments are a key part of that safety net. They have a legal obligation to treat patients with emergent problems, and more and more people are turning to them because they lack alternatives.

Each of the ten sites will collaborate with local community groups to create and disseminate a database report on the state of the safety net in its own community. UCSD Medical Center's Emergency Department and CHIP will each receive a $25,000 grant, with up to $100,000 of additional support also provided to each partner through the Urgent Matter program, to help with the assessment of problems leading to overcrowding, and assist with implementation of solutions.

"We will study emergency room crowding as well as implement solutions and improvements to patient flow in the ED and throughout our medical center," said Theodore Chan, M.D., associate clinical professor of emergency medicine at UCSD, and UCSD project director. "The selection of our site by RWJF recognizes that the San Diego region is experiencing ED overcrowding similar to what's going on nationwide, and that our institution and community as a whole are committed to addressing the problem that threatens the health care safety net in our community."

CHIP is a collaborative of local health care stakeholders including hospitals, health plans, clinics, physicians, educators, community-based organizations and the County of San Diego.

"CHIP is pleased to have been selected as the community partner in this project. Emergency department overcrowding will be a factor of the safety net assessment," said Kristin Garrett, Executive Director of CHIP. "However, the assessment will have a broader focus, looking at the entire system of care including hospitals, clinics and providers."

The CHIP component of the project will assess the status of the safety net in the San Diego region. The findings of the safety net assessment will be used to develop an action plan to strengthen the safety net and improve care for the uninsured and underserved in San Diego County.

UCSD received the grant after a competitive process involving 287 emergency departments nationwide. In addition to UCSD, centers in Boston, MA; Lincoln, NE; Queens, NY; Atlanta, GA; Detroit, MI; Fairfax, VA, Memphis, TN; Phoenix, AZ, and San Antonio, TX were also selected.

The Urgent Matters program office is based at the George Washington University's Center for Health Services Research and Policy in the School of Public Health and Health Services. Bruce Siegel, M.D., M.P.H., research professor in the Department of Health Policy, directs the program.

`"We view the 10 selected sites as real-world laboratories to develop models that can be replicated throughout the country," said Siegel. "These ten communities and hospitals have stepped up to the plate to help ensure access to quality care for all their fellow citizens."

More information about the program is available at www.urgentmatters.org.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., is the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. It concentrates its grant making in four goal areas: to assure that all Americans have access to quality health care at reasonable cost; to improve the quality of care and support for people with chronic health conditions; to promote healthy communities and lifestyles; and to reduce the personal, social and economic harm caused by substance abuse, tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs.

The George Washington University Center for Health Services Research and Policy is dedicated to providing policymakers, public health officials, health care administrators, and advocates with the information and ideas they need to improve access to quality, affordable health care. The Center's research and policy agenda reflects that goal, spanning a wide range of timely topics related to the structure, financing, and delivery of health care services.

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Media Contacts:
Eileen Callahan, UCSD

Kristen Garrett, CHIP

UCSD Health Sciences Communications HealthBeat: http://health.ucsd.edu/news/