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Hospital overcrowding: a threat to patient safety?

Peter A Cameron
Med J Aust 2006; 184 (5): 203-204.
Published online: 6 March 2006

Managing access block involves reducing hospital demand and optimising bed capacity

Hospital overcrowding causing “access block” — a lack of available inpatient beds for emergency department patients — remains a major impediment to the delivery of good health care both in Australia and overseas. It is obvious that making elderly or disabled patients wait on uncomfortable emergency trolleys in corridors, with sleep deprivation and minimal privacy, is inhumane. Previous research has shown that hospital overcrowding is actually inefficient: it is associated with increased length of hospital stay,1,2 thus potentially reducing throughput. The number of adverse events has also been shown to increase with worsening access block.3,4

  • Peter A Cameron

  • Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Prahran, VIC.

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