DAL 16-21 - Emergency Department (ED) Overcrowding Prevention

January 11, 2017


Dear Chief Executive Officer:

It is important to periodically review and update your hospital’s plan to prevent Emergency Department (ED) overcrowding and respond to overcrowding, should it occur. As you know, overcrowding can severely hamper all hospital operations and diminish capacity to receive additional emergency patients.

Certain EDs are routinely overcrowded, resulting in delayed patient assessments and treatments. Given the importance of EDs in providing emergency care to critically ill and injured patients, overcrowding presents an unacceptably high patient safety risk.

In addition, EMS personnel often spend long periods of time in hospital EDs during periods of overcrowding. As an essential community resource, EMS personnel must not be detained in the ED to provide continuing care to patients once they are on the hospital’s premises. To ensure that patient care needs are met, ambulance patients must be transferred promptly to ED staff, allowing EMS personnel to return back into service.

The New York State Department of Health asks you to review the attached document and use it to take action to proactively reduce the occurrence of overcrowding in your EDs. To do this will require hospital-wide analysis and corrective action to address patient flow throughout the organization, not just in the ED.

Thank you for your anticipated compliance with this important effort.


Ruth Leslie
Division of Hospitals and Diagnostic & Treatment Centers