Complaints of long wait times spur probe of California safety-net system

California health officials will investigate Los Angeles County's safety-net healthcare system after a report highlighted clinician concerns about long wait times for specialty care, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The Los Angeles Times published an investigative report Sept. 30 that claimed that thousands of patients at the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services faced extremely long delays to see specialists. The report identified six cases in which patients died after waiting at least three months to see physicians in such critical specialties as cardiology or oncology, though it's not clear whether the delays played a role in their deaths. 

A spokesperson for the California Department of Health Care Services said it will probe whether any managed care plan that offers California's Medicaid program, Medi-Cal, violated a state contract to provide adequate access to care.

"Any untimely death is a tragedy, and our hearts go out to the families suffering the loss of a loved one. The wait times outlined by The Times are unacceptable," Michelle Baass, undersecretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. "Timely access to care is a fundamental patient right."

Earlier this year, the California Department of Managed Health Care also launched an investigation into the county's wait times.

In a previous statement to Becker's, the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services called the Los Angeles Times' report "misleading and sensationalistic" and said it "ignores the overwhelming evidence showing DHS has greatly improved its specialty care system to provide on-time consultations and procedures in the vast number of cases." 

View the full article here.

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