Opinion: Emergency Rooms Shouldn't Be Parking Lots For Patients

Patients in hospital ERs can wait hours for inpatient beds to open up. The delays can be maddening. A solution for this longstanding problem has been elusive in the U.S., despite progress elsewhere.
Waits for inpatient beds are an important factor in ER overcrowding. Source: UpperCut Images

On a good day in the emergency room where we work, patients who need to be admitted to the hospital might expect to wait four or five hours, including evaluation and treatment, before they are sent upstairs to a ready bed.

On a bad day, ER patients might wait two or three times as long, and sometimes much longer.

Recently, one of us cared for a bedridden patient with chest pain who spent 47 hours in an ER hallway before a spot became available in the cardiac unit.

Keeping patients in the ER while waiting for an inpatient bed — a practice known as boarding — isn't, most American hospitals have boarded patients in the ER for more than two hours while waiting for an inpatient bed.

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