A Closer Look Into Global Hospital Beds Capacity and Resource Shortages During the COVID-19 Pandemic

J Surg Res. 2021 Apr;260:56-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2020.11.062. Epub 2020 Nov 24.


Background: As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there is a question of whether hospitals have adequate resources to manage patients. We aim to investigate global hospital bed (HB), acute care bed (ACB), and intensive care unit (ICU) bed capacity and determine any correlation between these hospital resources and COVID-19 mortality.

Method: Cross-sectional study utilizing data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other official organizations regarding global HB, ACB, ICU bed capacity, and confirmed COVID-19 cases/mortality. Descriptive statistics and linear regression were performed.

Results: A total of 183 countries were included with a mean of 307.1 HBs, 413.9 ACBs, and 8.73 ICU beds/100,000 population. High-income regions had the highest mean number of ICU beds (12.79) and HBs (402.32) per 100,000 population whereas upper middle-income regions had the highest mean number of ACBs (424.75) per 100,000. A weakly positive significant association was discovered between the number of ICU beds/100,000 population and COVID-19 mortality. No significant associations exist between the number of HBs or ACBs per 100,000 population and COVID-19 mortality.

Conclusions: Global COVID-19 mortality rates are likely affected by multiple factors, including hospital resources, personnel, and bed capacity. Higher income regions of the world have greater ICU, acute care, and hospital bed capacities. Mandatory reporting of ICU, acute care, and hospital bed capacity/occupancy and information relating to coronavirus should be implemented. Adopting a tiered critical care approach and targeting the expansion of space, staff, and supplies may serve to maximize the quality of care during resurgences and future disasters.

Keywords: Bed capacity; COVID-19; Global health; Hospital resources.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / mortality
  • COVID-19 / therapy*
  • Critical Care / economics
  • Critical Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Global Burden of Disease / statistics & numerical data
  • Global Health / economics
  • Global Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Resources / economics
  • Health Resources / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospital Bed Capacity / economics
  • Hospital Bed Capacity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Pandemics / statistics & numerical data