Western emergency medicine patients in Southern California are having to pay for hospitalization in order to treat a severe heat wave, according to a study released Tuesday.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that emergency room admissions were more likely to be for heat-induced heart failure, respiratory failure, or pneumonia if patients were younger, sicker or were not able to pay.
Those patients were also more likely than others to be in need of a CT scan or CT-guided X-ray.
“These are some of the hardest-hit patients, and I think the people who are having these most difficult conditions are often people who have really been struggling for years with chronic illness,” Dr. Paul Osterberg, a co-author of the study and a professor at the University of Southern California’s Department of Emergency Medicine, told Recode.
In the United States, about half of the 2.2 million Americans who were diagnosed with COPD between 2006 and 2012 have been in the United Kingdom.
In Southern California, about 80 percent of the patients with COPDs were younger than 45 years old, according the study.
In other words, the majority of Southern Californians are likely suffering from COPD.
And even though they’re not getting the same care as the rest of us, their COVID-19 symptoms are making it harder for them to get care from hospitals, which can be prohibitively expensive.
“They are more vulnerable to having these COVIDs [heat-related complications] than we are,” Osterburg said.
In a recent op-ed for The New York Times, Osterbergh wrote that the study showed that while hospitals are able to cope with COPS, they can’t provide treatment to patients who are older, sick or can’t pay.
“Many of the older and sicker patients who have COPD, especially those who are not insured or unable to pay, are also the most vulnerable to hospitalization,” he wrote.
“For these patients, the costs of COVID are often prohibitive.”
The study included patients who had been admitted to the hospital for at least 12 days, and who were aged 50 years or older.
The authors of the paper said that in addition to having COVID symptoms, those patients were more frequently at high risk of COVD, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, or chronic bronchitis.
“The more time people spend in hospital, the more likely they are to develop COVID complications, as well as more severe infections and complications,” the study authors wrote.
“This is the same reason why some hospitals do not have adequate diagnostic testing, and are unable to treat patients who might have COPDs or COVID [heat illness] symptoms.”