Almost Half of Hospitals Experience Crowded Emergency Departments

ATLANTA – Between 40 percent and 50 percent of U.S. hospitals experience crowded conditions in the emergency department (ED) with almost two-thirds of metropolitan EDs experiencing crowding at times, according to a new report issued Sept. 27 by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

The report, titled Staffing, Capacity, and Ambulance Diversion in Emergency Departments: United States, 2003-04, contains a number of findings, including:

  • An average of 4,500 EDs were in operation in United States during 2003 and 2004
  • Crowding in metropolitan EDs was associated with a higher percentage of nursing vacancies, higher patient volume, and longer patient waiting and treatment durations
  • Over half the EDs saw fewer than 20,000 patients annually but one out of 10 had an annual visit volume of more than 50,000 patients
  • Most EDs used outside contracts to provide physicians (64.7 percent)
  • Half of EDs in metropolitan areas had more than 5 percent of their nursing positions vacant
  • Approximately one-third of U.S. hospitals reported having to divert an ambulance to another emergency department due to overcrowding or staffing shortages at their ED

The full report can be viewed at


CDC Press Release

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