The novel coronavirus outbreak in Italy — whose health care system has more hospital beds per 1,000 people than the United States — could signal a lack of preparedness on the US front, according to commentary published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"Though Italy’s health system is highly regarded and has 3.2 hospital beds per 1,000 people (as compared with 2.8 in the United States), it has been impossible to meet the needs of so many critically ill patients simultaneously," Dr. Lisa Rosenbaum, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, wrote in the perspective piece published Wednesday.
Despite hospitals in Italy canceling elective surgeries and turning operating rooms into temporary intensive care units, the country has seen limited capacity in treating an influx of COVID-19 patients, Rosenbaum said. And doctors have had to ration care.
Experts, including US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, have widely cautioned that the US could "become Italy" as the outbreak worsens stateside.