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Case Manager. 2005 Jul-Aug;16(4):52-4; quiz 55.

Hospital overcrowding: an opportunity for case managers.

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Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, USA.


Hospital overcrowding is primarily a shortage of inpatient beds, not a lack of emergency department capacity, as initially assumed. According to Asplin et al., many factors contribute to overcrowding, including inadequate or inflexible nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, isolation precautions, or delays in cleaning rooms after patient discharge; an overreliance on intensive care or telemetry beds; inefficient diagnostic and ancillary services on inpatient units; and delays in discharging hospitalized patients to postacute-care facilities. Hospital overcrowding presents a challenge for hospital employees and clients, often leading to frustration and dissatisfaction. Overcrowding also has a direct effect on patient care, including compromised patient safety, increased costs, increased length of stay, and increased mortality and morbidity rates. The emergency department is changed from a temporary holding area to an extended patient care unit, decreasing its ability to handle new admissions and to manage a mass casualty. Beds in the critical care units become filled with inappropriate patients if floor beds are not available, making placement of seriously ill patients difficult. Trauma patients may have to be diverted to other hospitals to receive the appropriate level of care. Patients who require specialty services may have to wait for extended periods to obtain a bed in a referral center.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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