Patients Are Dying in Emergency Department Waiting Rooms

Patients Are Dying in Emergency Department Waiting Rooms

Patients Are Dying in Emergency Department Waiting Rooms 150 150 Dan Frith

The title of today’s blog post is not mine or any of the other lawyers who work at Frith and Ellerman…but it sure could be.

The title comes from an article published in an online medical news source called MedPage Today, and you can read the article here.  The online publication aggregates timely information about medicine and medical services in the United States.  The article is damning and concludes patients are now waiting hours, days, and sometimes weeks in the Emergency Department (ED).  You can read the article yourself but here are two interesting observations/facts from the article:

  1. In 2021, in the busiest hospitals, more than one in 10 ED patients left without care.  Even more disturbing, half of the sickest patients in the department — those requiring admission — waited 9 or more hours for an inpatient bed.
  2. recent survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) invited ED doctors to share what they’ve seen happen as a result of excessive wait times in the ED. They reported patients with brain bleeds, hip fractures, and even necrotizing genital infections are being treated in the waiting room because there are no rooms or even hallway beds available in the ED.  Multiple physicians shared stories of patients dying in the waiting room because the ED was so overwhelmed, they had to wait for hours to see a physician.

Why is this happening?  It is not simply a matter of too many ED patients.  We all know staffing shortages throughout the hospital and “business hours” scheduling of inpatient specialized services lead to inefficient patient flow through the hospital, ultimately causing a backup in the ED.  That is not the cause either. In my opinion the problem is one of “corporate medicine,” which is medicine driven by the profit motive (don’t let those tags of “non-profit hospital” fool you).  It is better business for hospitals to keep their medical floors near capacity, prioritize beds for surgical patients who bring in more money, and not leave a buffer of open rooms available for predictable surges of ED patients (every Monday afternoon). If more than 90% of beds are full upstairs on Sunday, hospital revenues may be optimized, but dangerous ED gridlock becomes inevitable.

About the author

Dan Frith

Dan Frith has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in cases of medical malpractice throughout Virginia. He has been named "Best Medical Malpractice Attorney" by Roanoker Magazine and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To speak with Dan, contact him by email at

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