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Scarcity of Intensive Care Unit Beds and Patient Outcomes

Source:  Reuters, March 15, 2012 Scott Halpern and colleague Jason Wagner commented in the Archives of Internal Medicine on a research study done in Canada that showed no difference in patient mortality rates among patients referred to a medical emergency team at three hospitals when intensive care units (ICUs) were full and had to turn some patients away than when they were not.  Overcrowding of ICUs with patients who do not need critical care is common, and, says Halpern, “it’s much easier to transfer a patient to an intensive care unit whether or not they will benefit from it than it is to have a difficult discussion about the end of life…Work needs to be done to better understand how commonly ICU beds are not available, and how often that affects patients who could benefit from ICU admission.”