People with disabilities faced pandemic triage biases

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Sumary of People with disabilities faced pandemic triage biases:

  • When COVID-19 patients began filling up ICUs throughout the country in 2020, health care providers faced difficult decisions..
  • Health care workers had to decide which patients were most likely to recover with care and which were not so resources could be prioritized..
  • But a new paper from the University of Georgia suggests that unconscious biases in the health care system may have influenced how individuals with intellectual disabilities were categorized in emergency triage protocols..
  • The study, published in Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, found that some states had emergency protocols saying that individuals with brain injuries, cognitive disorders or other intellectual disabilities may be poor candidates for ventilator support..
  • Others had vague guidelines that instructed providers to focus resources on patients who are most likely to survive..
  • To compound the problem, COVID-19 hospital protocols that banned visitors often shut out advocates and family members who might have been able to advocate for these individuals..
  • “I think when you leave people out of the conversations making these decisions, you see an issue like structural discrimination and bias,”.
  • said Brooke Felt, lead author of the paper who graduated from UGA in 2020 with Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health degrees..
  • “Ableism, which is when people discriminate against those with disabilities and favor people with able bodies, is just so ingrained into the health care system..
  • State protocols offer a degree of guidance about how to allocate resources, but in the moment, decisions about care often come down to individual health care providers..
  • Curt Harris, corresponding author of the paper and director of the Institute for Disaster Management in UGA’s College of Public Health, stressed that this research isn’t an attack on clinical providers, who have shouldered an enormous burden throughout the pandemic..
  • “I just don’t think they have been given the requisite education needed for population-level health issues, nor is it easy for clinicians to reconcile what constitutes high quality of life for patients with intellectual disabilities…

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