There is ‘something concerning’ going on in America’s ICUs

Josh Dutton
·News Reporter
·4-min read

A top doctor is worried “something concerning” is occurring in America’s intensive care units as the country continues to be ravaged by Covid-19.

Dr Ashish Jha, the dean at Brown University’s School of Public Health, tweeted after looking through hospital data that he believes hospitals are slowing down ICU admissions to non-Covid patients due to the overwhelming pandemic burden.

“Looking at hospital data, there's something concerning happening in America's ICUs,” Dr Jha said.

“There are 27,000 Covid patients in ICUs right now.

“On October 2, there were 7,000 and in order to accommodate the increase, hospitals are reducing access of non-Covid patients to ICU care.”

Health care workers tend to a Covid-19 patient in a Covid-19 holding pod at Providence St Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California.
Health care workers treat a Covid-19 patient at Providence St Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California. Source: Getty Images

Dr Jha added hospitals are being forced to “slow down ICU admissions” as the emergency rooms get filled.

He shared a graph from the US Department of Health and Human Services dated from October 2 until the start of 2021.

It shows a trend of ICU occupancy taken by Covid patients going up while other patients using the unit trending down.

Dr Jha said between October 2 until January 1 this year about 8,000 ICU beds were added but 9,000 Covid patients in the ICU turned into 27,000 in the same time frame.

Non-Covid patients in the ICU reduced from 48,000 to 39,000.

Medical staff member Mantra Nguyen installs a new oxygen mask for a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas.
A doctor installs a new masks on a patient at the intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston. Source: Getty Images

“Imagine a patient with moderate to severe lung disease or stroke,” he tweeted.

“In October, they would have gone to the ICU. By December, many such patients aren’t getting ICU care but let’s be clear, they would be better in the ICU.

“But ICUs are full. So hospitals [are] forced to ration.”

States begin to run out of ICU beds

Dr Jha also pointed out from the data that in Arizona and California both states now have more Covid patients in the ICU than they do non-Covid patients.

In October, they both had more non-Covid patients in the ICU than those with the virus.

Some cities in southern California are running out of ICU beds.

Intensive care availability at Bay Area hospitals fell to the lowest levels yet last week, dropping from 7.4 per cent to just 3.5 per cent as of Wednesday, according to state data. The Northern California region, which includes 11 mainly smaller and rural counties, had the best capacity at around 25 per cent.

Dr Jim Keany, 54, the managing partner for emergency physicians at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo in LA said “every bed is full” in his hospital.

"When we get filled up with Covid patients, we can't take care of the community in general," Dr Keany said.

"Every bed is full, every nurse and doctor is occupied taking care of COVID patients."

A patient is seen lying on a bed in the Covid-19 intensive care unit (ICU) on New Year's Day at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas.
A Covid-19 patient seen in the intensive care unit (ICU) at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston on New Year's Day. Source: Getty Images

Dr Keany added one patient waited in the ambulance more than five hours at another nearby hospital before being admitted.

Dr Jha added deaths throughout the pandemic might be looked at differently further down the track.

“Years from now, careful analysis will likely find that during this time, sick people without Covid in hot spots died at much higher rates,” he said.

“That's what happens when hospitals become strained. Their deaths won’t count as a Covid-related deaths ... But maybe it should.”

with Reuters, AP

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