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‘Delayed discharges and boarders’: a 2-year study of the relationship between patients experiencing delayed discharges from an acute hospital and boarding of admitted patients in a crowded ED
  1. Farah Mustafa1,
  2. Peadar Gilligan1,
  3. Deborah Obu1,
  4. Patrick O'Kelly2,
  5. Eimear O'Hea3,
  6. Catherine Lloyd3,
  7. Sherif Kelada1,
  8. Attracta Heffernan1,
  9. Patricia Houlihan1
  1. 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  2. 2Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  3. 3Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland 
  1. Correspondence to Dr Farah Mustafa, Emergency Department, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, Ireland; D9. mrsfarahmustafa{at}


Objective Many believe that hospital crowding manifesting in the ED with the boarding of admitted patients is a result of significant numbers of acute hospital beds being occupied by patients awaiting discharge to nursing homes, step-down facilities or home with or without additional support. This observational study was performed to establish the actual relationship between boarders in the ED and patients experiencing delayed discharge.

Methods Data relating to the number of patients in the ED and their points in their patient pathway were entered into a logbook on a daily basis by the most senior doctor on duty. 630 days of observations of patients boarded in the ED were compared with the number of inpatients with delayed discharges, obtained from the hospital information system, to see if large numbers of inpatients with delayed discharges are associated with crowding in the ED.

Results Two years of data showed an annual ED census of more than 47 000, with a daily mean ED admission rate of 29.85 patients and a daily mean ED boarding figure of 29 patients. A mean of 15.4% of the 823 hospital beds was occupied by patients with delayed discharges, and the hospital ran at, or near, full capacity (99%–105%) all the time. Results obtained highlighted a statistically significant relationship between delayed discharges in the hospital and ED crowding as a result of boarders (p value<0.001, with a regression coefficient of 0.16, 95% CI 0.12 to 0.20). The study also showed that the number of boarders was related to the number of ED admissions in the preceding 24 hours (p=0.036, with a regression coefficient of 0.14, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.28).

Conclusions Delayed hospital discharges significantly contribute to crowding in the ED. Healthcare systems should target timely discharge of inpatients experiencing delayed discharge in an urgent and efficient manner to improve timely access to acute hospital beds for patients requiring emergency admission.

  • emergency department
  • crowding

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