Many patients had to often wait months for speciality care in LA County, investigation finds

Three months is the average wait time for LA County Department of Health Services patients who needed to see a specialist, according to a Los Angeles Times investigation

The Times analyzed LA County data from 2016 to 2019, tracking the date when specialty care was requested and then when an appointment occurred. Reporters found cases where patients died of diseases that should have been treated earlier. 

“Doctors came to us and told us it’s agonizing trying to get your patients seen by a specialist,” said LA Times investigative reporter Jack Dolan.

Dolan said the main cause was a team of specialists being overwhelmed and overbooked. “It’s a problem nationwide, but it’s particularly acute in safety-net hospitals that don’t pay as well.”

The report found that 24 days was the national wait time average.

“We were often finding families who were struggling with knowing how to advocate for themselves, and how to push back and say, ‘Why are we waiting so long for these appointments?’” said LA Times reporter Brittny Mejia.

Mejia said they asked the county how many people died waiting for a specialist appointment, but county officials said they didn’t track that.

LA Times: How we reported the story: Deadly delays in L.A. County’s public hospital system

LA County Department of Health Services calls the Times’ investigation “misleading”