Total patient load, regional disparities and in-hospital mortality of intubated COVID-19 patients in Greece, September 2020 to May 2021
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Aims: While healthcare services have been expanding capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic, quality of care under increasing patient loads has received less attention. We examined in-hospital mortality of intubated COVID-19 patients in Greece, in relation to total intubated patient load, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) availability and hospital region. Methods: Anonymized surveillance data were analyzed from all intubated COVID-19 patients in Greece between 1 September 2020 and 6 May 2021. Poisson regression was used to estimate the hazard of dying as a function of fixed and time-varying covariates. Results: Mortality was significantly increased above 400 patients, with an adjusted Hazard Ratio of 1.25, 95%CI: 1.03-1.51), rising progressively up to 1.57 (95%CI: 1.22-2.02) for 800+ patients. Hospitalization outside an ICU or away from the capital region of Attica were also independently associated with significantly increased mortality. Conclusions: Our results indicate that in-hospital mortality of severely ill COVID-19 patients is adversely affected by high patient load even without exceeding capacity, as well as by regional disparities. This highlights the need for more substantial strengthening of healthcare services, focusingon equity and quality of care besides just expanding capacity.