Associations between hospital occupancy, intensive care unit transfer delay and hospital mortality

Uchenna R. Ofoma, Juan Montoya, Debdoot Saha, Andrea Berger, H. Lester Kirchner, John K. McIlwaine, Shravan Kethireddy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Purpose: Hospital occupancy (HospOcc) pressures often lead to longer intensive care unit (ICU) stay after physician recognition of discharge readiness. We evaluated the relationships between HospOcc, extended ICU stay, and patient outcomes. Materials and methods: 7-year retrospective cohort study of 8500 alive discharge encounters from 4 adult ICUs of a tertiary hospital. We estimated associations between i) HospOcc and ICU transfer delay; and ii) ICU transfer delay and hospital mortality. Results: Median (IQR) ICU transfer delay was 4.8 h (1.6–11.7), 1.4% (119) suffered in-hospital death, and 4% (341) were readmitted. HospOcc was non-linearly related with ICU transfer delay, with a spline knot at 80% (mean transfer delay 8.8 h [95% CI: 8.24, 9.38]). Higher HospOcc level above 80% was associated with longer transfer delays, (mean increase 5.4% per % HospOcc increase; 95% CI, 4.7 to 6.1; P < .001). Longer ICU transfer delay was associated with increasing odds of in-hospital death or ICU readmission (odds ratio 1.01 per hour; 95% CI 1.00 to 1.01; P = .04) but not with ICU readmission alone (OR 1.01 per hour; 95% CI 1.00 to 1.01, P = .14). Conclusions: ICU transfer delay exponentially increased above a threshold hospital occupancy and may be associated with increased hospital mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-55
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Critical Care
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Critical care utilization
  • ICU discharge delay
  • ICU strain
  • ICU transfer delay
  • Organizational efficiency
  • Work flow


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