Full Capacity Protocols

23 Mar

[image via NetDance on Flickr. CC License]

Hospitals are busy places. We have no space, no beds, no staff and inevitably less money to make this all happen. This is the situation we have.

We’re fairly pragmatic folks so we find ways to manage the work more efficiently and try and do more as an out patient or involve things like ADPs (accelerated diagnostic protocols)

But when we get slammed and have more admitted patients than you have trolleys to put them on then the system grinds to a halt and you can’t assess treat and admit/discharge anyone new.

In Stony Brook in New York, the hospital (and that’s the important bit, not just the ED) decided that when the ED was choked that they could put some of the stable patients as extras in the hallways of the wards. You can imagine what the ward staff thought of that.

This is a brief paper reviewing their experience.

Viccellio, Asa, Carolyn Santora, Adam J Singer, Henry C Thode, and Mark C Henry. “The Association Between Transfer of Emergency Department Boarders to Inpatient Hallways and Mortality: a 4-Year Experience..” Annals of Emergency Medicine 54, no. 4 (October 2009): 487–491. doi:10.1016/j.annemergmed.2009.03.005. PMID 19345442

This is a review of patient flow effectively and not a trial in any prospective sense. All they wanted to show was that this was happening and what the effects were.

It is not the highest quality science and does not claim to be.


  • 25% of those assigned to a hallway bed actually got a proper bed immediately
  • another 25% got a proper bed within an hour
  • the rest got a proper bed within 8 hrs.


Your hospital probably has more beds than they say they do. Spreading the crowding from one place to the whole hospital spreads the moral and professional responsibility to a hospital wide problem. It’s remarkable how that motivates resources.

Importantly it must be realised that this is no panacea for a poorly run hospital. In fact every time a hospital implements something like this it’s a sign that something is deeply wrong. However it can alleviate a crisis.

The Irish Association has a nice statement on FCPs. And indeed a nice EMJ paper on the same too.

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