CHICAGO (WBBM) — Provident Hospital has postponed its decision to stop accepting emergency room patients by ambulance.

But it’s only temporary.

Cook County Health and Hospitals System spokesman Lucio Guerrero said Friday evening that the decision was made at the request of the six hospitals surrounding Provident, most notably the University of Chicago Hospitals, so that they can work on staffing changes in their emergency rooms and be sure they are prepared.

Provident had expected to make the change Saturday. 

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The county, which is under pressure to reduce spending, seeks to transform Provident from an underutilized comprehensive hospital to a primary health care center, also phasing out much of its inpatient care.  It intends to continue to accept walk-in emergency room patients, whom Guerrero said now comprise 88 percent of those seen by its ER doctors.

“Thirty days isn’t going to throw us too far off track,” Guerrero said. 

Provident in 2009 treated approximately 40,000 emergency patients, Guerrero said.  Of that number, about 4,800 arrived by ambulance.

The University of Chicago Hospitals released a statement in which it said that its already-crowded adult emergency room could see a 50 percent increase in ambulance runs should Provident stop accepting them.

“Although the Medical Center has significantly expanded its adult emergency room, built a new children’s emergency room, and created referral, staffing and transfer relationships with trusted partners to provide additional services for emergency patients, the adult ER already reaches or exceeds capacity more than any other ER in the state,” it said in its statement.

Since 1986, six South Side hospitals have closed.