Impact of admission screening for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus on the length of stay in an emergency department.

Preventing and controlling methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) includes early detection and isolation. In the emergency department (ED), such measures have to be balanced with the requirement to treat patients urgently and transfer quickly to an acute hospital bed. We assessed, in a busy and overcrowded ED, the contribution made to a patient's stay by previous MRSA risk group identification and by selective rescreening of those patients who were previously documented in the research hospital as being MRSA positive. Patients with a previous diagnosis of MRSA colonisation were flagged automatically as 'risk group' (RG) on their arrival in the ED and were compared with 'non-risk group' (NRG), i.e. not previously demonstrated in the research hospital to be infected or colonised with MRSA. Over an 18 month period, there were 16 456 admissions via the ED, of which 985 (6%) were RG patients. The expected median times to be admitted following a request for a ward bed for NRG and RG patients were 10.4 and 12.9h, respectively. Female sex, age >65 years, and RG status all independently predicted a statistically significantly longer stay in the ED following a request for a hospital bed. We consider that national and local policies for MRSA need to balance the welfare of patients in the ED with the need to comply with best practice, when there are inadequate ED and inpatient isolation facilities. Patients with MRSA requiring emergency admission must have a bed available for them.