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Why Aren’t Hospitals Addressing ER Boarding?

Posted on April 29, 2024

If you have ever been admitted to a hospital via the Emergency Room, you might have spent several hours or longer waiting for your room. Known as “ER boarding,” the process has you lying on a gurney in the ER hallway while doctors and nurses tend to new patients. With the medical staff no longer focused on you, ER boarding is a dangerous practice that could increase your risk of dying in the hospital, reported Forbes magazine.

ERs aren’t equipped to handle patients for extensive times, noted the authors. This could lead to delays in care and/or medication errors. As the ER becomes more crowded with boarders, there’s also less room for new patients, which creates increased wait times for everyone else.

At issue is getting into an available hospital bed. The process can be delayed for several reasons: the beds may be reserved for more lucrative elective surgery patients, they may be filled with other current patients, or the nurses in an intended department or floor may just be too busy to immediately accept new patients. 

The National Academy of Medicine called ER boarding a “national crisis” back in 2006, but not much has been done since then to address the problem. Many hospitals choose not to fix it because there’s no downside in the status quo. While the Joint Commission, a hospital accrediting group, notes that boarding more than four hours is a patient safety issue, it does not track ER boarding, nor does it hold hospitals accountable. There are no financial penalties, and boarding times are not publicly reported.

Delayed care and other poor decisions in the ER can have serious and even life-threatening implications. Tom Duffy has recovered tens of millions of dollars for victims of emergency room injury and negligence, including a $21,000,000 verdict for a patient discharged with misdiagnosed hypoglycemia. If you suspect that you or a loved one is a victim of medical malpractice at a Philadelphia hospital, please contact us.