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Crowded ED

Medical Orgs Ask White House to Intervene on Boarding Problem

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

More than two dozen medical associations and advocacy groups sent a letter to the White House this week asking the Biden administration to convene a summit to find solutions to the boarding problem, which has reached a crisis point.

Boarding is a term that means making admitted patients wait for an inpatient bed or for transfer. This happens when an emergency department is especially busy and crowded. The longer patients wait under these circumstances, the more likely it is they will experience negative outcomes. Christopher Kang, MD, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), said boarding is “at a level we’ve never seen before,” which is “straining our system, accelerating emergency physician burnout, and putting patients’ lives at risk.”

Now, the healthcare industry has asked for the federal government to intervene.

“As we face this winter’s ‘triple threat’ of flu, COVID-19 surges, and pediatric respiratory illnesses that are on a sudden rise, ACEP and the undersigned organizations hereby urge the administration to convene a summit of stakeholders from across the healthcare system to identify immediate and long-term solutions to this urgent problem,” the groups wrote. “If the system is already this strained during our ‘new normal,’ how will emergency departments be able to cope with a sudden surge of patients from a natural disaster, school shooting, mass casualty traffic event, or disease outbreak?”

Along with a background explanation of boarding and its consequences, the group included many stories from emergency providers to illustrate just how serious the situation has become. For example, in one rural facility, three people died in the waiting room in the past six months. In another facility, each nurse is responsible for caring for 15 to 20 patients who are boarded.

For more on this subject, be sure to read the latest issues of ED Management. The December 2022 edition is all about another top healthcare industry concern – staffing shortages, including how that is connected to the boarding problem.