Survey: Boarding deaths not all that uncommon

While the media may be treating the recent death of Elizabeth Rodriguez in an ED waiting room in Los Angeles as an isolated incident, a new survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) would indicate that is far from the case.

The survey, conducted between Jan. 29, 2007, and Feb. 28, 2007, queried ED physicians in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut on issues ranging from ED overcrowding to boarding, including their personal experiences with patients suffering harm or dying as a result of boarding. The results are sobering:

  • In New Jersey, 139 ED physicians responded to the ACEP survey. Of those, 55.4% said they had personally experienced a patient suffering harm as a result of boarding, and 12.2% said they personally had experience with a patient dying as a result of boarding.
  • In Connecticut, 104 ED physicians responded to the ACEP survey. Of those, 60.6% said they had personally experienced a patient suffering harm as a result of boarding, and 16.3% said they personally had experience with a patient dying as a result of boarding.
  • And in New York, 425 ED physicians responded to the ACEP survey. Of those, 68.9% said they had personally experienced a patient suffering harm as a result of boarding, while a stunning 28.2% said they personally had experience with a patient dying as a result of boarding.

These statistics seem to correspond to a recent increase in overcrowding in respondents' EDs. For example, 61.2% of the New Jersey respondents said that crowded conditions in their EDs had increased significantly in the past year; 36.7% said boarding occurs in their ED most of the time and 31.7% said it occurs all the time.

In Connecticut, 51% of the respondents said that crowded conditions in their EDs had increased significantly in the past year; 42.3% said boarding occurs in their ED most of the time and 13.5% said it occurs all the time.

And in New York, 56.5% of the respondents said that crowded conditions in their EDs had increased significantly in the past year; 36.5% said boarding occurs in their ED most of the time, and even more of them (36.7%) said it occurs all the time.

In Connecticut, 26.9% of the respondents said that patients are boarded in their ED an average of 13-24 hours; In New Jersey, 30.2% said that patients are boarded in their ED an average of 13-24 hours; and in New York, 29.2% said their patients were boarded between 13 and 24 hours on average.

Finally, a total of 97.1% of the Connecticut respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that crowded conditions in their ED were harmful to patients; in New Jersey, the figure was 96.4%; and in New York, it was 97.6%.