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ICU Beds Lacking in Low-Income Neighborhoods Across the U.S.

THURSDAY, Aug. 6, 2020 -- There are greater shortages of intensive care unit (ICU) beds for critically ill patients in low-income neighborhoods compared with high-income neighborhoods, according to a report published in the August issue of Health Affairs.

Genevieve P. Kanter, Ph.D., from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and colleagues examined disparities in community ICU beds by U.S. communities' median household income using data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Healthcare Provider Cost Reporting Information System for 4,518 short-term and critical access hospitals. ZIP code-level median household income was calculated using the 2018 American Community Survey.

The researchers found that more than one-third of American communities had no ICU beds, but there was a large gap in access by income, with 49 percent of the lowest-income communities (<$35,000) having no ICU beds in their communities versus only 3 percent of the highest-income communities (≥$90,000). These income disparities in the availability of community ICU beds were more pronounced in rural areas than in urban areas.

"Policies that facilitate hospital coordination are urgently needed to address shortages in ICU hospital bed supply to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mortality rates in low-income communities," the authors write.

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Posted: August 2020

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