Background During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of individuals needing hospital admission has sometimes exceeded the availability of hospital beds. Since hospitalization can have detrimental effects on older individuals, preference has been given to younger patients. The aim of this study was to assess the utility of hospitalization for elderly affected by COVID-19. We hypothesized that their mortality decreases when there is greater access to hospitals. Methods This study examined 1902 COVID-19 patients consecutively admitted to three large hospitals in Milan, Italy. Overall mortality data for Milan from the same period was retrieved. Based on emergency department (ED) data, both peak and off-peak phases were identified. The percentage of elderly patients admitted to EDs during these two phases were compared by calculating the standardized mortality ratio (SMR) of the individuals younger than, versus older than, 80 years. Results The median age of the patients hospitalized during the peak phase was lower than the median age during the off-peak phase (64 vs. 75 years, respectively; p <0.001). However, while the SMR for the younger patients was lower during the off-peak phase (1.98, 95% CI: 1.72–2.29 versus 1.40, 95% CI: 1.25–1.58, respectively), the SMR was similar between both phases for the elderly patients (2.28, 95% CI: 2.07–2.52 versus 2.48, 95% CI: 2.32–2.65, respectively). Conclusions Greater access to hospitals during an off-peak phase did not affect the mortality rate of COVID-19-positive elderly patients in Milan. This finding, if confirmed in other settings, should influence future decisions regarding resource management of health care organizations.
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