Critical care services in Ontario: a survey-based assessment of current and future resource needs
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PURPOSE: In response to the challenges of an aging population and decreasing workforce, the provision of critical care services has been a target for quality and efficiency improvement efforts. Reliable data on available critical care resources is a necessary first step in informing these efforts. We sought to describe the availability of critical care resources, forecast the future requirement for the highest-level critical care beds and to determine the physician management models in critical care units in Ontario, Canada. METHODS: In June 2006, self-administered questionnaires were mailed to the Chief Executive Officers of all acute care hospitals, identified through the Ontario government's hospital database. The questionnaire solicited information on the number and type of critical care units, number of beds, technological resources and management of each unit. RESULTS: Responses were obtained from 174 (100%) hospitals, with 126 (73%) reporting one or more critical care units. We identified 213 critical care units in the province, representing 1789 critical care beds. Over half (59%) of these beds provided mechanical ventilation on a regular basis, representing a capacity of 14.9 critical care and 8.7 mechanically ventilated beds per 100,000 population. Sixty-three percent of units with capacity for mechanical ventilation involved an intensivist in admission and coordination of care. Based on current utilization, the demand for mechanically ventilated beds by 2026 is forecast to increase by 57% over levels available in 2006. Assuming 80% bed utilization, it is estimated that an additional 810 ventilated beds will be needed by 2026. CONCLUSION: Current utilization suggests a substantial increase in the need for the highest-level critical care beds over the next two decades. Our findings also indicate that non-intensivists direct care decisions in a large number of responding units. Unless major investments are made, significant improvements in efficiency will be required to maintain future access to these services.