Illinois has an ICU problem

Data by Liz Miernicki, Words by Boswell Hutson

*A previous version of this article used data from 2011-2013. It has now been updated with data from 2018. Everything in the article, including the map and the spreadsheet, has been updated to reflect the new data.*

As you’ve heard countless times this month, this new-found COVID-19 pandemic is deadly. As I sit down to write this, COVID-19 has claimed more than 1,100 American lives, and is showing limited-to-no signs of stopping.

On the surface, the disease can be lethal, but amplified danger comes when healthcare infrastructure becomes overwhelmed with patients who require an intensive care unit (ICU), causing doctors to make unthinkable life-or-death choices.

So how prepared is Illinois to handle a surge in ICU patients?

Well folks, we’ve crunched the numbers and they’re…not great.

Below, you will find a map of every hospital outside of Chicagoland. The green icons represent hospitals with an ICU. If you click on the icon, you can see exactly how many beds are in that ICU (many have less than five. a few have just a single ICU bed).

The red icons represent hospitals with no ICU capability whatsoever, even in normal, non-pandemic times. You can click on them to see the distance (in driving time) to the nearest ICU.

It is important to mention that these are maximum capacity numbers taken from this dataset from 2018, not current occupancy numbers. This map is a base-level, best-case scenario. It doesn’t account for current patients who may be occupying the ICU.

Even on a cursory glance, it’s easy to tell that the red dots are concentrated highly in southern Illinois.

If that wasn’t enough data for you, here are some key stats to glean from the map:

That’s not a typo.

There are only 139 ICU beds for almost an entire third of the state’s geographic area, and many of them are a significant drive away from non-ICU-equipped hospitals. To put this into perspective, Peoria alone has 131 ICU beds.

This has very real ramifications. It means that, in these areas, paramedics will be required to transport a COVID patient in round trips averaging an hour, putting themselves at tremendous risk. It means that they will burn out quickly, even from just a small amount of cases. It means that, inevitably, precious time will be lost due simply to transit.

The data could not be more clear. Much of our state is not nearly ready for what seems to be arriving on their doorstep.

Please stay home. We are playing with incredibly slim margins here.

You can dive into the data here, including specific numbers of ICU beds for every Illinois hospital outside of Chicagoland, and travel time from each non-ICU facility to a facility with an ICU.

You can view the map in full screen here.

Again, if you can, just stay home. Please.

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