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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Not as Many Hospital Beds as You May Think

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Before this latest pandemic, you probably never thought to bean count how many hospital beds are available – especially when reports of shortages create fear. Well, it turns out there are fewer hospital beds than you may think or at least to the untrained eye like mine. If I were to guess how many beds are in a large hospital building like guessing how many jelly beans were in a jar, I’d be way off.

Guess how many hospital beds are at the renowned Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles? 886. Not even 1,000.

Cedars Sinai Hospital

How many at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco? 239.

Kaiser Permanente Hospital in San Francisco

Here in Korea, the largest hospital – Asan Medical Center – has 2,750 beds.

Asan Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea

Don’t let these massive buildings fool you. When officials report they’re running out of hospital beds, they mean it. There aren’t that many to begin with. Overall, there are 12 hospital beds per 1,000 people in Korea. That’s about 60,000 beds for a population of over 50 million people.

The United States doesn’t even have 1 million beds. It’s about 924,107 beds for a population close to 330 million. And don’t forget that there are even fewer facilities in rural communities. That’s about 2.5 beds per 1,000 people. In the year 2,000 there were 3.0 beds available. Experts say the number should be about 4.5 to 5 beds.

So don’t let your eyes imagine that a big, big hospital building will always have a hospital bed ready and waiting for you. It’s not a hotel. And there aren’t that many beds to go around to begin with.

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