Monday, April 19, 2021

The Health of the Global Healthcare System

Over the past year, governments around the world have justified their draconian, freedom-reducing measures to battle the COVID-19 pandemic using the mantra that "we must all do our share to protect our healthcare system".  With that in mind, let's look at one key indicator which shows just how well our elected leaders have protected the healthcare system.


The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD represents the world's more advanced economies and are generally considered to be the high-income nations of the world, comprising 42.8 percent of global GDP in 2017 and 80 percent of world trade.  Here is a list of the member nations:


Key OECD partner nations are as follows:



Now, let's look at data from the OECD which shows one indicator of the health of national health care systems among OECD members.  According to the OECD's definition, the number of hospital beds (per 1,000 inhabitants) "...provides a measure of the resources available for delivering services to inpatients in hospitals in terms of number of beds that are maintained, staffed and immediately available for use...."  The OECD includes curative or acute care beds, rehabilitative care beds, long-term care beds and other beds in hospitals in its measure of hospital beds.


Here is a graphic from the OECD showing the number of hospital beds per 1000 inhabitants for all 37 member states with some key states highlighted:


Here is a list of the data in order from most hospital beds to least hospital beds per 1000 inhabitants:


1.) Japan - 12.98


2.) Korea - 12.43


3.) Germany - 8.00


4.) Austria - 7.27


5.) Hungary -  7.01


6.) Czech Republic - 6.62


7.) Poland - 6.54


8.) Lithuania - 6.43


9.) France - 5.91


10.) Slovak Republic - 5.7


11.) Belgium - 5.58


12.) Latvia - 5.49


13.) Switzerland - 4.63


14.) Estonia - 4.57

15.) Slovenia - 4.43


16.) Luxembourg - 4.26


17.) Greece - 4.2


18.) Australia - 3.84


19.) Finland - 3.61


20.) Norway - 3.53


21.) Portugal - 3.45


22.) Netherlands - 3.17


23.) Italy - 3.14


24.) Israel - 2.98


25.) Ireland - 2.97


26.) Spain - 2.97


27.) United States - 2.87


28.) Turkey - 2.85


29.) Iceland - 2.83


30.) Denmark - 2.60


31.) New Zealand - 2.57


32.) Canada 2.52


33.) United Kingdom - 2.46


34.) Sweden - 2.14


35.) Chile - 2.06


36.) Columbia - 1.71


37.) Mexico - 0.98


It is interesting to see that four nations which had among the most strict lockdowns, the United States, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom have among the lowest number of hospital beds per 1000 inhabitants, a factor which plays into the governments' "protect the healthcare system at all costs" mantra.

If we add in all nations in the OECD's database to the graph, here is what we find:



Note that Russia, a nation not particularly considered "advanced" by many of the world's political leadership, has the fourth highest number of hospital beds at 7.1 per 1000 inhabitants (2018 data).  China, at 4.0 hospital beds per 1000 inhabitants, also has more hospital beds per 1000 inhabitants than the four most severe lockdown nations that I noted above.


While I realize that the number of hospital beds isn't the only measure of the health of a healthcare system, it is this metric that governments are using as their excuse to lockdown entire healthy societies during the COVID-19 pandemic under the guise of protecting "the system".  Instead of shouldering the burden of blame, citizens of the nations with extremely low levels of hospital beds should be holding their elected governments responsible for allowing the healthcare systems which they control to degrade to the point where hospital services are threatened by a virus that is turning out to be only slightly worse than a normal seasonal illness when measured using the infection fatality ratio.


  1. "...a virus that is turning out to be only slightly worse than a normal seasonal illness..."
    A year ago i would have accepted the essence of this statement. In past month ICU beds are filling in Ontario and hospitals are struggling to cope. In India, we see an overwhelming demand for oxygen from Covid patients. The infection fatality ratio is one measure, but the media is showng us a lot more pain and suffering caused by Covid than any flu season.

    1. Sorry, but the media has become part of the problem. If anyone is to blame for Ontario's woes, it's a succession of governments that have slashed spending on healthcare and reduced the number of hospital beds while the population of the province continues to grow.