Using Medicare data to locate ICU beds, the authors found that 49 percent of all low-income areas had no ICU beds, compared to just 3 percent of the wealthiest communities. While this gap existed in rural and urban settings, it is much wider in rural America – even the poorest urban areas had more ICU beds per capita on average than the wealthiest rural areas.
Some severely affected areas have an increased IC bed capacity to handle an influx of coronavirus patients; a factor that the authors could not have explained with the available data. In recent months, some rural hospitals have deployed staff and equipment to convert regular beds into ICU beds, while others have relied more on transfers to urban hospitals.
This lack of access to care and a higher prevalence of chronic health problems increase risks for patients in rural America, undermining the advancement of new treatments, Kanter said. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine Last month, it was found that Covid-19 patients died earlier if they were admitted to hospitals with fewer IC beds.
At a Senate Committee hearing on Thursday, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) Warned that supply chain problems and unequal access to medical care in rural areas could further exacerbate racial inequalities already visible in the pandemic death toll.
“In rural America, especially in color communities, tens and tens of hospitals and caregivers are falling through the cracks,” Wyden said.