A year since we first started to come out with the numbers, there are still no reliable estimates, or even attempts to derive them, as far as I can tell, of the US ICU surge capacity. And this information is more critical now than ever, as we are faced with the potential for untold numbers of H1N1-related hospitalizations accompanied by severe respiratory failure. It is shocking to me that we are leaving these infrastructure issues to chance.
But wait, why am I so shocked? This is just another byproduct of our fragmented healthcare "system". There is no one either to take or to designate responsibility for planning. While our professional organizations are doing the best they can, their approach is usually siloed and somewhat distracted: in case you have not heard, we are also tackling the most rampant pandemic of antibiotic resistant infections, which affects ICUs disproportionately.
So, who will take charge of this hot potato? The CDC? Homeland Security? FEMA (chuckle-chuckle)? Press your representatives to tackle this thorny issue, because if you are worried about planned rationing now, wait until you see what unplanned bedlam looks like. Condi Rice said that the US intelligence community just did not have the imagination necessary to anticipate the 9/11 terrorist attack. Let us not have to resurrect this tired excuse this flu season.