Relationship between intensive care surge capacity and hospital factors: an extensive experience

Intern Emerg Med. 2023 Aug;18(5):1521-1532. doi: 10.1007/s11739-023-03233-8. Epub 2023 Mar 1.


As a prolonged surge scenario, the COVID-19 pandemic has offered an unparalleled opportunity to improve hospital surge capacity (SC) understanding and the ability to manage it. In this study, the authors report the experience of a large hospital network and evaluate potential relationships between Intensive Care Units SC (ICU-SC) and some hospital-related variables: bed occupancy, emergency department admissions, ward admission from ED, and elective surgery procedures. Pearson's partial correlation coefficient (r) has been used to define the relationship between SC and the daily values of the above variables, collected through a dedicated digital platform that also ensured a regular quality check of the data. The observation has concerned several levels of analysis, namely two different types of SC calculation (SC base-SCb and SC actual-SCa), hospital category level and multi-hospital level, and two consecutive pandemic waves. Among the 16 hospitals observed, the correlation was shown to be moderate-positive with non-ICU bed occupancy (r/ = 0.62, r/ = 0.54), strong/moderate with ICU bed occupancy (r/ = 0.72, r/ = 0.54), and moderate with ward admissions from ED (r/ = 0.50, r/ = 0.51) On the contrary, the correlation proved to be moderate-negative with ED admissions (r/ = - 0.69, r/ = - 0.62) and low with the number of elective surgery procedures (r/ = - 0.10, r/ = - 0.16). This study identified a positive correlation between SC and three variables monitored: ICU bed occupancy, non-ICU bed occupancy, and ward admissions from ED. On the contrary, the correlation was negative for ED admission and the number of elective surgery procedures. The results have been confirmed across all levels of analysis adopted.

Keywords: Disaster medicine; Intensive care; Pandemics; Surge capacity.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Critical Care
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Pandemics
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surge Capacity*