Why California's primary care-focused healthcare model is struggling against COVID-19

California's lean and efficient healthcare infrastructure, normally well-situated to provide modern care, has made the state particularly vulnerable to the punishing impact of COVID-19, reported The Atlantic.

Here are four reasons why, according to the article:

1. California has relatively few hospital beds, 1.8 per 1,000 people, because of the state's strategy to keep patients out of hospitals and send them instead to primary care physicians. This has overwhelmed hospitals during the pandemic.

2. Nearly three-quarters of commercially insured Californians are on HMOs, managed health plans that incentivize patients to seek treatment from primary care doctors rather than hospitals, further reducing the need in normal times for hospital capacity.

3. California's population is relatively young and healthy, meaning it doesn't normally need as much hospital capacity as other states.

4. Hospital closures have lost health workers their jobs. That, alongside few trainee primary care doctors, has meant California has relatively few doctors and nurses to attend to patients with severe COVID-19 cases.

This system makes sense in normal times, as modern medicine has meant that patients can spend less time in the hospital, thereby reducing their risk of infections. However, it has emerged as a weakness during the state's current COVID-19 surge.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom requested 500 federal medical personnel come support the state's COVID-19 response last week. As of last Friday, the request was "still awaiting adjudication by federal officials," the governor's office told The Atlantic.

More articles on leadership and management:
Wyoming hospital CEO says state not getting fair share of vaccines
4 leadership changes CEOs made during the pandemic
AHA writes letter urging HHS to expedite vaccination process


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