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COVID: All Hospital Beds are Not Created Equal

While it’s an often cited number, total beds or total icu beds in a particular state isn’t the most helpful number when it comes to trying to figure out if the healthcare system is stressed. Why?

1) Beds don’t take care of people. You need staff for them. This includes obvious staff such as nursing and physicians. It also includes all the other services that make a hospital run such as food services and lab.

2) Not all beds are created equal. There are differences in beds at different levels of facilities. Is that hospital critical access? Regional? Tertiary care? What kind of labs can their lab run? Do you have specialty support for certain critical care functions?  IE you can’t put a critically ill COVID pt with renal failure in an “icu bed” in a hospital without a nephrologist to start dialysis or a lab capable of running the required labs quickly

Of note, mortality data goes out the window if a hospital or healthcare system is overrun. Everything we know about how people do when they have COVID based on age and comorbities assumes they have access to the resources needed to care for them.

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