The policy, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2009, was designed to prohibit hospitals from diverting patients to other hospital's emergency rooms to avoid overcrowding in their own facilities. The only exception will be if there is an emergency such as a fire or environmental contamination within the hospital.

Although both Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford and Melrose-Wakefield Hospital have a history of rarely going on diversion, Hallmark Health is taking the necessary steps to prepare its staff for what could be an influx of patients. A committee, made up of Hallmark Health physicians, nursing staff, hospitalists and administrators have been meeting regularly to prepare for the launch of "No Diversion." A preemptive plan, which includes looking at staffing and patient patterns as well as brainstorming sessions on best practices for expediting discharges, is also in place.

In recent years both Hallmark Health hospitals have pursued a number of strategies to improve patient flow so they move efficiently and expeditiously through the system. Staff in the emergency department, along with the bed coordinator, utilizes the new electronic tracking system to assign in house beds. This helps to alleviate backups in the emergency room.

"We are fully prepared for the launch of the "No Diversion" policy," said Steven Sbardella, MD, chairman of emergency services for Hallmark Health System. "We are ready and waiting to deliver the best in quality care to our patients. We want to get them into the Emergency Department as quickly as possible so that they can be treated."

For information about emergency services of Hallmark Health as a whole, visit.


Hallmark Health System is the premier, charitable provider of vital health services to Boston's northern communities. The system includes Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford, Melrose Wakefield Hospital, Melrose, Hallmark Health Cancer Center, Stoneham, The CHEM Center for MRI, Stoneham, Hallmark Health Medical Center, Reading, Hallmark Health VNA and Hospice, Malden, Lawrence Memorial/Regis College Nursing and Radiography Programs, Medford, and Ell Pond Medical Associates. Hallmark Health is affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital for cardiology and Tufts Medical Center for neonatology.

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