LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Ambulance crews with the Los Angeles Fire Department faced nearly 37,000 hours in delays last year due to hospital bed shortages, which cost taxpayers about $6 million, according to a report released Thursday.

An overall lack of beds often requires ambulance crews to spend longer than the targeted 20-minute window for dropping patients off at hospitals, fire officials said.

The total number of hours wasted in 2013 — 36,627 — jumped almost 30 percent from 2012 to 2013, even as the number of ambulance transports and medical emergencies inched up by a little less than 2 percent, according to the report.

In fact, the number of hours ambulance crews were delayed is equivalent to parking four or more ambulances at one hospital every day, officials said.

The $6 million cost estimate is based on a $165-an-hour rate for department ambulances.

Fire officials said they are exploring options such as staffing dispatch centers with nurses to help resolve medical issues over the phone, rather than by sending out ambulances.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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