Deakin University

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‘Care in a chair’ – The impact of an overcrowded Emergency Department on the time to treatment and length of stay of self-presenting patients with abdominal pain

journal contribution
posted on 2016-09-18, 00:00 authored by B Smith, Stephane BouchouchaStephane Bouchoucha, E Watt
The aim in this study was to investigate the impact of overcrowding on the Australasian Triage Score’s (ATS) time to treatment target and the National Emergency Access Target (NEAT) for patients who self-present to the Emergency Department (ED) with abdominal pain.

The causes and effects of ED overcrowding have been well described in the literature. It is a widespread phenomenon throughout the world and it can cause serious harm to patients and have a negative impact on access to emergency care. There is however, little research investigating the effect of overcrowding when patients self-present to the ED and experience a delay in being allocated a cubicle.

A retrospective analysis of 12-months of computerised records was carried out in order to determine if self-presenting patients with abdominal pain allocated a category 3 triage score who were required to ‘queue’ for a cubicle would meet ATS target and NEAT requirements. A multiple regression analysis was used to determine whether or not queuing for an ED cubicle, age and gender were predictors of meeting the ATS guidelines and NEAT requirements.

Three hundred and five patients met the inclusion criteria and were included in the study. Of these 149 patients waited more than 15 min to be allocated a cubicle while 156 did not experience any delay. A multiple regression analysis revealed that gender and age were not predictive of meeting the ATS target and NEAT requirements, while delay in allocation to a cubicle was a significant predictor of not being assessed within 30 min and discharged within 4 h. Furthermore, 61.2% of patients allocated to the waiting room queue for any amount of time were admitted to the ward.

Queuing in the waiting room for an ED bed was a significant predictor of whether or not category three patients with abdominal pain had treatment commenced within 30 min of presentation and was associated with a longer total ED length of stay.



International emergency nursing




9 - 14




Amsterdam, The Netherlands





Publication classification

C Journal article; C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2016, Elsevier