Clinical vignette: A 32-year-old female presents to a secondary level hospital with difficult breathing. A nurse assesses vital signs, finding a heart rate of 139 bpm, SpO2 = 71%, respiratory rate at 56 bpm, and temperature of 38.1°C. Despite critical vital signs, the patient is sent back to the queue to wait for a doctor.

A reality for a woman in Lesotho, this common scenario demonstrates challenges faced by critically ill patients across the globe. Too often, critical illness is not recognized, providers fail to respond, and patients are not rescued from reversible life-threatening illnesses. This is a global problem, not just for low- and middle-income countries. American hospitals also struggle with critical care access, quality, and capacity.

The 2023 World Health Assembly saw the first-ever adoption of a resolution mentioning “critical care.” Member states vowed to strengthen emergency, critical, and operative care. Implementation requires short- and long-term...

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