Research predicts increased COVID-19 mortality in Australia if ICU bed capacity is not urgently boosted

A modelling study conducted by Macquarie University in collaboration with a frontline healthcare worker predicts Australian hospitals could face a critical shortage of ICU beds in less than ten days if COVID-19 cases continue their exponential growth.


“Due to some misconception over the number of intensive care beds that might be needed to care for COVID-19 patients, we applied an exponential growth model to evaluate the preparedness of a typical urban intensive care unit,” explains biostatistician Professor Michael Jones, Deputy Head of Research in Macquarie’s Psychology Department.

The modelling, which is based on data from Italy suggests that Australian hospitals do not currently have the capacity to accommodate possible demand and, as a result, the future mortality rate may be much higher than expected.

The data suggests that the number of ICU beds needed is approximately 10 per cent of the total positive COVID-19 cases or 50 per cent of the number of new positive cases. Australia has around 2,200 ICU beds, which implies if public health measures fail to curb the rate of growth, Australia’s ICU capacity will be exceeded at around 22,000 COVID-19 cases sometime around the 5 April, 2020.

“Our scenario is just one possible clinical scenario, but we are saying it is a plausible scenario because it mirrors what has happened in Italy,” Professor Jones adds.

“Australia must immediately take all available measures to rapidly decrease the rate of new cases and radically increase the number of ICU beds otherwise we may face the same fate as Italy, or worse.”

The study was published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) and co-authored by Australian anaesthetist, Hamish Meares.


/Public Release. View in full here.