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Free-Standing Emergency Department - Occupancy

What type of occupancy is a free-standing emergency department?

Any examples are for illustrative purposes only.

The criteria for determining the occupancy of free-standing emergency departments depends on whether the organization is deemed by CMS (accepts funding from Medicare and/or Medicaid).

For non-deemed organizations, The Joint Commission uses the definition of NFPA 101 (2012 edition) Life Safety Code which defines Ambulatory Health Care Occupancy as facilities that provide care to patients with less than a 24-hour stay wherein there are 4 or more patients mostly incapable of self-preservation.  This includes emergency or urgent care for patients who, due to the nature of their injury or illness, are incapable of taking action for self-preservation under emergency conditions without the assistance of others.

For non-deemed organizations where fewer than 4 patients are mostly incapable of self-preservation in a freestanding emergency department, the facility would be classified as a Business Occupancy.

For deemed organizations, CMS uses the same definitions as described above, except that the threshold is 1 or more patients mostly incapable of self-preservation.  Effectively for deemed organizations, all freestanding emergency departments would be considered Ambulatory Health Care Occupancy.
Manual: Critical Access Hospital
Chapter: Life Safety LS
First published date: April 11, 2016 This Standards FAQ was first published on this date.
This page was last updated on October 27, 2021

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