Estimates of Emergency Department Capacity

A new Health E-Stat from the National Center for Health Statistics provides estimates of emergency department (ED) capacity. The role of EDs has expanded over the past few decades from treating seriously ill and injured patients to providing urgent unscheduled care to patients unable to gain timely access to their doctors. As the ED begins to “board” patients, the space, the staff, and the resources available to treat new patients are further reduced.

A consequence of overcrowded emergency departments (EDs) is ambulance diversion, in which EDs close their doors to incoming ambulances. The resulting treatment delay can be catastrophic for the patient, but approximately 500,000 ambulances are diverted annually in the United States (i.e., one ambulance diversion per minute).

For more information, visit the Health E-Stat at

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