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Joint Commission Official: Don't Put Patients in Egress Halls When ED Overcrowds

Scott Wallask, for HealthLeaders Media, June 25, 2009

Those of you who plan to move patients into exit corridors when routine ED overcrowding occurs may want to reconsider that policy given what a Joint Commission official said about the matter.

Patients on gurneys and chairs cannot be parked in egress corridors because of Life Safety Code® requirements for minimum clear widths, said George Mills, FASHE, CEM, CHFM, senior engineer at The Joint Commission.

Even if state regulators order healthcare facilities to get patients out of EDs and instead hold them in inpatient unit corridors, The Joint Commission doesn't believe this is the best approach, Mills said during a recent Joint Commission Resources audio conference.

Instead, such a situation should prompt facility managers and ED directors to review ED traffic flow and come up with better ways to manage overcrowding, he said.

An exception to this stance is a disaster-related influx of patients to a healthcare facility, during which corridor treatment of patients may be the only way to deal with a sudden surge of victims.

An exception: Disaster influxes

The Joint Commission's position has wider backing. The Healthcare Interpretations Task Force—an influential group of authorities that reviews National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provisions for medical settings—developed an informal policy on the matter that frowns upon staging patients in egress corridors.

The task force's decisions aren't formal NFPA interpretations and don't change any the language of standards or codes. However, the task force's members agree to abide by the group's decisions to the extent practical.

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