Hospital Delays Play a Role in the Racial Divide Among Heart Patients

African-Americans with heart problems are more likely to be taken to a hospital that is not equipped to take care of their specific needs.

Past studies have told us how African-Americans are less likely to call 9-1-1 first when someone is having a stroke or heart attack and are more likely to wait for a longer period of time to receive heart procedures, but a new study found that those aren't the only reasons we receive late treatment.


Sometimes it's the hospital's fault.


Researchers from the University of Michigan Health System found that hospital quality plays a factor in why Black patients wait longer for treatment that they need. In a news release, the authors stated that heart attack patients who arrive at hospitals that aren't equipped to perform revascularization procedures, such as angioplasty or open-heart surgery, need to be transferred quickly to a hospital that can do these procedures. And Black heart patients were more likely to have to be the ones to be transferred because the first hospital they were brought to was not prepared for their needs. They also found that Black patients waited six hours longer than whites to get the life-saving treatment they required.


Six hours.


That's an incredible amount of time. That can be the difference between life and death in some cases. Lead author Colin R. Cooke said, "These data suggest that an individual's race may play much less of a role in generating differences in care, while the hospitals where Black patients often go may be even more important."


While Cooke is hesitant to say that isn't really race, it is about socioeconomics and how it impacts our health, in the same way that low-income urban neighborhoods are less likely to have grocery stores and food stability. Yet who is more likely to live in a low-income urban neighborhood? 




Why are hospitals that serve a large number of African-Americans, the same population with disproportionate heart disease rates, not fully equipped to perform these procedures on their patients? Why are these hospitals that have to transfer patients somewhere else?


What's interesting is that the researchers can't really answer why. But they do suggest that better organization and funding at these hospitals could improve cardiovascular care for Black patients.


I am not sure how long that will take. I guess in the meantime, we will just have to keep waiting.

(Photo: Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT /Landov)

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