Is it legal to set up patients in the hallway, not on a temporary basis, but for their entire stay in the hospital?

By | 2022-02-23T17:51:07-05:00 December 2nd, 2013|3 Comments


Dear Nancy,

Is it legal to set up patients in the hallway, not on a temporary basis, but for their whole admission, and not because there are no other beds in area hospitals? All they have are partitions, and it seems like a potential violation of HIPPA. I can’t find where to check laws on this.


Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Kevin:

The practice of placing patients permanently in a hallway, when there are other beds available at other facilities, is not acceptable practice. Legally and ethically, patients are to be treated with the best care available and with dignity and respect. Placing them in a hallway during the duration of their hospital stay meets no known goal that would benefit the patient.

Obviously, at times, it may be necessary to place a patient in a hallway for a short period of time until a room is available (making sure their privacy and comfort is provided for as best that can be) or until the transport of a patient can take place, especially if the hospital is experiencing an unusual influx of patients due to a disaster or overcrowding.

Treating patients in this way as a rule or as a policy is inconsistent with ethical principles, legal mandates under which hospitals are licensed to provide care, and likely violates other state and federal laws, such as HIPAA, prohibitions against the abuse and neglect of patients, and accreditation requirements.

Nurses who provide care to patients in such situations also may risk disciplinary action by a state board of nursing for various violations of the state nurse practice act and rules.

Because one of your duties under your state nurse practice act or its rules is to report unsafe, unethical, illegal or unprofessional practices to appropriate authorities, you might want to consult with a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who can guide you in reporting this practice to the appropriate authorities. Such reporting is vital since these patients have no advocate to act on their behalf to end this situation. The reporting also will fulfill your legal and ethical duty as a nurse licensee, and as a human being, to report these known practices so that these individuals are admitted and provided care in a manner to which patients are entitled.


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  1. Avatar
    Darren Reed December 23, 2017 at 3:33 am - Reply

    I am in Fresno, California and just had the awful experience of being put in the hallway and being told I have 20+ people ahead of me before I see a room and some of those have been in the hallway 2+ days.
    I am looking for legal clarification on this and also is it legal for them to do this after telling me I was being taken to another room and end up right in the middle of the ER main nurses station against a wall.
    Is it legal for them to administer medicine, IV or oral and casually talk of the doses, with names and all of the info your not suppose to here about another patient called HIPPA I think it’s called. My Doctor won’t discuss my wife’s medical without her being in the room and giving consent so how is it that this ER can openly discus everything openly in the hallway and I can openly pee right out in the open and its all ok and then be told I’m getting the same medical care as if I had my own room!
    I of course was very upset after I was admitted and then taken to my new room ( with a TV ) I was lied to! and I started raising hell because my wife had just left after spending 14 hours in the ER with me and after both of us being assured I was being admitted to a room and we even spoke about dinner because I had no water, food no nothing I didn’t even have a pillow.
    After being told this is my new home right in the middle of the ER, I was then told, hopefully we will get you out before Christmas! At that point I was more than ticked! That’s 4 days away!
    I saw the shift change Doctor just kinda cruising around and called him over. I said what’s up with this? We just spoke on how I was being admitted and was, and now my room is the hallway with no monitors, no nothing! He missed telling me that part which I nor my Wife would have ever agreed to.
    He told me I was getting the same treatment in the hallway as I would be getting in my room! I then got really upset and said, except the part of being able to eat, sleep, go the bathroom ( since I couldn’t walk, I would pee or in a bed pan or urinal in front of everyone , patients, staff and who ever else was in the ER. No Screens anywhere all open!
    Long and ugly story short, I had a nurse call my Wife to come back to the hospital to take me home.
    She did and I had to sign an AMA which the nurse told me to sign and he would fill in the rest!
    I asked him for crutches ( remember, I can’t walk )he told me the Doctor refused because I was going home.
    Can I please get help with this total abuse of the ER at the Clovis Community Medical Center? Can someone please let me know how to stop this and who to contact for legal advise?
    This was like I was in a third world country and the lack of care at this ER was so Blatantly bad.

  2. Avatar
    OAT SMITH July 13, 2023 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    I was hospitalized at Orange Coast Memorial Hospital in Fountain Valley. I spent 4 nights there. I first spent 7 hours in the ER waiting room. My first night was in a hallway bed with very busy traffic, alarms, shouting, all sorts of people with no curtains and no masks. My second night was still on the ER floor. Curtains separating me from a coughing patient. Still no masks. A room was available on my third night sharing with a woman shouting at her dead father, and loud groaning and outbursts. I was admitted with a dangerous condition. I did not feel safe at all. I felt that I was not being treated professionally and left that hospital on the fifth day after being diagnosed, treated, and stabilized. I never want to go back to that hospital. It was understaffed and overcrowded. To top it off, I contracted covid there. I became ill and tested positive my second day at home.

  3. Avatar
    Antonio Mejia July 16, 2023 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    I’m in Washington state and when I arrived at a medical center I was in the hallway for 5 days. They finally put me in a room for a day and a half, and then they pulled me out of the room and put me back in the hallway because they had another patient that needed it more than me. It’s been 24 hours and that room is still empty. The patient is not in there and there are four other rooms that are empty, yet I am still in the hallway.

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