In emergency departments (EDs) across and beyond Massachusetts, an increase in medically complex patients, presenting with symptoms associated with conditions such as substance use disorder and cancer treatment, are driving a nationwide ED space shortage.
“All around the country, overcrowding has been a huge thing,’’ says Michael VanRooyen, MD, Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It’s pretty demoralizing for patients and staff when we’re seeing people in the hallway.”
The Brigham, which sees approximately 63,000 emergent patients each year in its ED, has a plan to address the problem. An expansion and redesign of the Brigham ED, beginning April 1, will double the size of the department and add 30 beds. The space will include separate areas facilitating targeted complex care for both behavioral health patients and oncology patients, the latter comprising about one-fifth of Brigham ED visits due to the hospital’s partnership with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
In addition to the physical expansion, the plan includes enhanced referrals to other hospitals within the Partners network to help the Brigham direct admitted patients appropriately to available beds, and an additional planned expansion of the Partners HealthCare at Home program to facilitate inpatient-level care in patients’ homes when possible.
A similar expansion is underway at North Shore Medical Center, where an increase in the inpatient psychiatric beds by nearly two-fold will help to reduce crowding in its own ED.
Read more about Partners hospitals’ efforts to relieve the statewide ED overcrowding issue in The Boston Globe.