So how many ICU beds do we have?

Tracy Watkins writes:

When Health Minister Andrew Little claimed ICU beds had increased by more than 100 in the 15 months since Covid, Wellington ICU specialist Paul Young did a very unusual thing. He went on the public record to call BS on the minister’s numbers.

“I challenge you to visit any ICU in the country and find one clinician (just one) who can show their newly staffed beds,” Young tweeted.

You can either believe the minister or you can believe the people who are working at the coalface. I know who I believe.

Presumably Andrew Little meant that they had purchased 100 additional mattresses!

The truth is, it has been almost impossible to penetrate the spin surrounding ICU capacity for months now. I first started asking in the middle of winter when an RSV outbreak put hospitals under severe strain.

I was following up on an April 2020 press release on the Ministry of Health website that said ICU capacity was supposed to have been “urgently tripled” to 550 by July that year.

Yet in July 2021 when I first approached the MOH for an update on progress towards those 550 beds, they queried it as a number that they didn’t recognise as coming from the ministry.

So the Government promised to triple capacity to 550, then denied it had promised it!

They added that there were currently 284 ICU beds. That seemed to suggest a drop of around 60 beds on the previous year.

But that figure of 284 is different again from the one that Little quoted on Radio New Zealand last week of 340.

Yet according to an audit by the Australia New Zealand Intensive Care Society released just last week, none of those numbers are correct – the actual figure is just over 172 fully staffed adult ICU beds, and 14 fully staffed paediatric beds, a total of 186.

A big difference between 186 and 550.

Comments (118)

Login to comment or vote

Add a Comment

%d bloggers like this: