HealthDay News — 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 Health Affairs.

Genevieve P. Kanter, PhD, from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and colleagues examined disparities in community ICU beds by US communities’ median household income using data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Healthcare Provider Cost Reporting Information System for 4518 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% of the lowest-income communities (<$35,000) having no ICU beds in their communities vs only 3% 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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