States, Hospitals Told to Make Rationing Plans as Covid Surges


States and hospitals need to be in crisis mode, ready to make “agonizing decisions about how resources are used” as Covid-19 infections surge nationwide, several major groups representing doctors and nurses said Friday.

The U.S. has “reached a point in the crisis at which critical decisions must be made in order to do the most good possible for the largest number of people with limited resources,” nine organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and the National Academy of Medicine, warned in a statement Friday. Many intensive care units are already over capacity and more will be in the coming weeks, the statement said.

There are more than 17 million confirmed Covid-19 cases in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University, whose Center for Health Security was among the groups on the statement. States need to plan how to distribute patients among hospitals as needed, and hospitals must determine how best to stretch their staff. Resource allocations should be based on individual assessments on the likelihood a patient might die, though this shouldn’t include blanket exclusions for disability, age or general life expectancy, the groups said.

“Failure to act will inevitably mean more lives lost, lasting damage to our fragile health-care system, and deepened scars of health inequity,” according to the statement.

Already, a growing number of hospitals around the U.S. have canceled or delayed some planned medical procedures to preserve staff and beds for those sick with Covid-19. Conditions remain especially acute in the Midwest and West. From Illinois to Idaho, health systems are limiting non-emergency surgeries as the pandemic’s strain on personnel grows.

Many of the hardest hit hospitals care for Black, Brown, Asian and tribal communities, the groups said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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