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1 in 10 EDs Boarding Psych Patients for 'One Week or More'

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, December 16, 2010

Patients with mental and behavioral health issues rather than physical ailments often cause a bottleneck in hospital emergency rooms for "up to a week or more" because inpatient psychiatric beds are lacking.

That's one of the conclusions from a recent survey of 603 emergency department administrators, 56% of whom said they are often unable to transfer patients in a timely manner, and 30% of whom said they are sometimes unable to do so. 

Of the 603 who responded, 29% said the longest board times they are experiencing with mental health patients is 12 hours or less. However, 41% reported seeing board times of up to two days or longer, and 10% said they are seeing board times of up to one week or more.

The survey was distributed to respondents in July and August by the Schumacher Group of Lafayette LA, one of the three largest emergency department management firms in the country. Schumacher says it manages operating and staffing for 180 acute care hospital EDs, with three million ED patients annually.

"The evidence of a widespread breakdown in mental health services is becoming increasingly apparent in the nation's EDs," the Schumacher Group said.

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