Facilitating EMS turnaround intervals at hospitals in the face of receiving facility overcrowding

Marc Eckstein, S. Marshal Isaacs, Corey M. Slovis, Bradley J. Kaufman, James R. Loflin, Robert E. O'Connor, Paul E. Pepe

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The escalating national problem of oversaturated hospital beds and emergency departments (EDs) has resulted in serious operational impediments within patient-receiving facilities. It has also had a growing impact on the 9-1-1 emergency care system. Beyond the long-standing difficulties arising from ambulance diversion practices, many emergency medical services (EMS) crews are now finding themselves detained in EDs for protracted periods, unable to transfer care of their transported patients to ED staff members. Key factors have included a lack of beds or stretcher space, and, in some cases, EMS personnel are used transiently for ED patient care services. In other circumstances, ED staff members no longer prioritize rapid turnaround of EMS-transported patients because of the increasing volume and acuity of patients already in their care. The resulting detention of EMS crews confounds concurrent ambulance availability problems, creates concrete risks for delayed EMS responses to impending critical cases, and incurs regulatory jeopardy for hospitals. Communities should take appropriate steps to ensure that delivery intervals (time elapsing from entry into the hospital to physical transfer of patient care to ED staff) remain extremely brief (less than a few minutes) and that they rarely exceed 10 minutes. While recognizing that the root causes of these issues will require far-reaching national health care policy changes, EMS and local government officials should still maintain ongoing dialogues with hospital chief administrators to mitigate this mutual crisis of escalating service demands. Federal and state health officials should also play an active role in monitoring progress and compliance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-275
Number of pages9
JournalPrehospital Emergency Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • 9-1-1 systems
  • Access to care
  • Ambulance diversion
  • EMD
  • EMS
  • Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act
  • Emergency medical dispatch
  • Emergency medical services
  • Hospital overcrowding
  • Patient choice
  • Regulatory violations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency


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