A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that people with disabilities hospitalized with COVID-19 had longer hospital stays and a greater risk of readmission when compared to those without disabilities. Researchers drew these conclusions after conducting a retrospective study analyzing adults with COVID-19 who were hospitalized and discharged between January 1, 2020 and November 30, 2020 at seven hospitals in Canada.
“Longer hospital stays and higher risk of readmissions for patients with disabilities,” according to the authors of the report, “may reflect slower recovery and increased vulnerability to recurrent illness because of physiologic differences.” The patients with a disability captured in the study tended to be older than those without a disability, were less likely to be male, and were more likely to be residents of long-term care facilities and have comorbidities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some people with disabilities are more likely to get infected with COVID-19 or have severe illness because of “underlying medical conditions, congregate living settings, or systemic health and social inequalities.”
The authors concluded that “disability-related needs should be addressed to support these patients in hospital and after discharge.” Recommendations included:
- Providing support persons to assist in communication for patients with sensory, intellectual, or developmental disabilities;
- Training for clinicians about the rights of people with disabilities; and
- Prioritizing people with disabilities for COVID-19 vaccinations.
The authors also emphasized that pandemic response efforts should be prioritized to ensure equitable care for COVID-19 positive patients with disabilities.
January 3, 2022 – C. St. John
 Brown, H. K., Saha, S., Chan, T. C. Y., Cheung, A. M., Fralick, M., Ghassemi, M., Herridge, M., Kwan, J., Rawal, S., Rosella, L., Tang, T., Weinerman, A., Lunsky, Y., Razak, F., & Verma, A. A. Outcomes in patients with and without disability admitted to hospital with COVID-19: A retrospective cohort study. (Jan. 31, 2022). Canadian Medical Association Journal, 194(4). https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.211277
 CDC. People with Disabilities. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (June 21, 2021). Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/humandevelopment/covid-19/people-with-disabilities.html#:~:text=Most%20people%20with%20disabilities%20are,severe%20illness%20from%20COVID%2D19.