A research study by Yale researchers claimed that during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, the increasing records of deaths were tied to the lack of ICU beds in hospitals. According to the study published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, it found a significant association between the availability of hospital resources, particularly ICU bed and patient mortality during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lead author Dr Alexander Janke, a Yale emergency scholar in the fourth year of a five – year combined residency and health service research fellowship said, “There is a general narrative among people in health care that the more resources there are, the better we can take care of patients.” This study begs the question – Are case fatality rate driven by changes in resources?.
According to their findings, the answer is “yes” in an analysis of 306 hospital referring regions (HRRS) in the U.S from March 1 to July 26, 2020.
The researchers found that geographic regions with fewer resources per COVID-19 patients including ICU beds, critical care physicians, emergency physicians, nurses and general hospital beds were statistically associated with more deaths in April, 2020.
The study looked at 4, 453 hospitals overall after generating positive responses at hospitals in the northeastern U.S which were hardest hit by the first surge of patient cases.
The strongest association was related to ICU availability. According to the findings, for every additional ICU bed per COVID-19 case, there was an associated one-fifth decrease in an incidence rate of death during the month. According to their estimates, 15,571 COVID-19 patients died at these hospitals due to lack of ICU beds during the month of April.
Most of the hospitals with the greatest numbers of excess deaths were located in the northeast, specifically HRRS in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Hartford, and Camden N.J
The findings provide important insights as nearly a year later, the country continues to see high rates of COVID-19. However, Dr Arjun Venkatesh associate professor of emergency medicine at Yale School of Medicine, a co-author of the study said, “The lesson of this work is clear our hospital resources are finite and a failure to implement the policy to prevent hospital overload is certain to result in deaths that could have been avoided”.