Background: Anticipated circumstances during the next severe influenza pandemic highlight the insufficiency of staff and equipment to meet the needs of all critically ill victims. It is plausible that an entire country could face simultaneous limitations, resulting in severe shortages of critical care resources to the point where patients could no longer receive all of the care that would usually be required and expected. There may even be such resource shortfalls that some patients would not be able to access even the most basic of life-sustaining interventions. Rationing of critical care in this circumstance would be difficult, yet may be unavoidable. Without planning, the provision of care would assuredly be chaotic, inequitable, and unfair. The Task Force for Mass Critical Care Working Group met in Chicago in January 2007 to proactively suggest guidance for allocating scarce critical care resources.
Task Force suggestions: In order to allocate critical care resources when systems are overwhelmed, the Task Force for Mass Critical Care Working Group suggests the following: (1) an equitable triage process utilizing the Sequential Organ Failure Assessment scoring system; (2) the concept of triage by a senior clinician(s) without direct clinical obligation, and a support system to implement and manage the triage process; (3) legal and ethical constructs underpinning the allocation of scarce resources; and (4) a mechanism for rapid revision of the triage process as further disaster experiences, research, planning, and modeling come to light.