Unlike in Europe, hospitals in U.S. hot spots continue to perform preventive screenings and elective procedures. Delaying these reduces the quality-of-life for non-Covid patients and may lead to more deaths later from untreated diseases. Europe’s problem isn’t merely that Covid hospitalizations are increasing faster than in the U.S. Hospitalizations in the U.S. have increased by a quarter over the past two weeks compared to a doubling in Germany and the United Kingdom. But European hospitals are also straining because they have too few beds.
According to an August study in the Journal of Critical Care, the U.S. has 34.7 ICU beds per 100,000 population compared to 29.2 in Germany, 15.9 in Belgium, 11.6 in France, 9.7 in Spain, 6.6 in the U.K. and 6.4 in the Netherlands. Hospitals in Europe’s national health systems operate under global budgets that keep a tight cap on hospital funding.
This results in chronic under-investment and rationed care in normal times with patients having to wait longer for treatments and screenings. Hospitals are lean because they can’t afford to maintain spare beds and staff. Paris hospital workers this month protested that government budget cuts have cut ICU beds by half in the last 10 years.