Mass Critical Care Surge Response During COVID-19: Implementation of Contingency Strategies - A Preliminary Report of Findings From the Task Force for Mass Critical Care

Jeffrey R. Dichter, Asha V. Devereaux, Charles L. Sprung, Vikramjit Mukherjee, Jason Persoff, Karyn D. Baum, Douglas Ornoff, Amit Uppal, Tanzib Hossain, Kiersten N. Henry, Marya Ghazipura, Kasey R. Bowden, Henry J. Feldman, Mitchell T. Hamele, Lisa D. Burry, Anne Marie O. Martland, Meredith Huffines, Pritish K. Tosh, James Downar, John L. HickMichael D. Christian, Ryan C. Maves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: After the publication of a 2014 consensus statement regarding mass critical care during public health emergencies, much has been learned about surge responses and the care of overwhelming numbers of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gaps in prior pandemic planning were identified and require modification in the midst of severe ongoing surges throughout the world. RESEARCH QUESTION: A subcommittee from The Task Force for Mass Critical Care (TFMCC) investigated the most recent COVID-19 publications coupled with TFMCC members anecdotal experience in order to formulate operational strategies to optimize contingency level care, and prevent crisis care circumstances associated with increased mortality. STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: TFMCC adopted a modified version of established rapid guideline methodologies from the World Health Organization and the Guidelines International Network-McMaster Guideline Development Checklist. With a consensus development process incorporating expert opinion to define important questions and extract evidence, the TFMCC developed relevant pandemic surge suggestions in a structured manner, incorporating peer-reviewed literature, "gray" evidence from lay media sources, and anecdotal experiential evidence. RESULTS: Ten suggestions were identified regarding staffing, load-balancing, communication, and technology. Staffing models are suggested with resilience strategies to support critical care staff. ICU surge strategies and strain indicators are suggested to enhance ICU prioritization tactics to maintain contingency level care and to avoid crisis triage, with early transfer strategies to further load-balance care. We suggest that intensivists and hospitalists be engaged with the incident command structure to ensure two-way communication, situational awareness, and the use of technology to support critical care delivery and families of patients in ICUs. INTERPRETATION: A subcommittee from the TFMCC offers interim evidence-informed operational strategies to assist hospitals and communities to plan for and respond to surge capacity demands resulting from COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-447
Number of pages19
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 American College of Chest Physicians. All rights reserved.


  • COVID-19
  • contingency
  • conventional
  • crisis levels
  • critical clinical prioritization
  • incident command system
  • load-balancing
  • mass critical care
  • staffing
  • surge
  • telemedicine
  • tiered staffing

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Practice Guideline


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