OBJECTIVE: To describe the effect of a 3-week closure of a 28-bed medical ward on Emergency Department (ED) and hospital outcomes.
METHODS: This was a prospective comparative observational study of all ED attendances (visits; n = 11 383) made to a regional teaching hospital in Queensland, Australia, during a 9-week period (November 24, 2008-January 4, 2009). A 3-week period of ward closure was compared with equal time periods before and after. Hospital health information systems data were linked manually to describe and compare outcomes: median ED length of stay, access block, hospital length of stay, and in-hospital mortality.
RESULTS: Ward closure reduced hospital bed capacity by 5.9%. During ward closure there was a higher proportion of access block (38% vs 33% in both pre- and posttimes), longer wait time to see a doctor, and longer overall ED length of stay, compared with pre-ward closure time period.
CONCLUSION: Temporarily closing a medical ward had a negative effect on some ED and hospital outcomes. When major refurbishments are required, alternative capacity measures need to be considered to minimize the impact on health service delivery and patient outcomes. Reducing elective surgery and opening replacement beds elsewhere in the hospital are possible solutions.
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