Intensive care staff exhausted as Covid numbers rise

Medical personnel in the intensive care unit of the Fribourg cantonal hospital during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in March Keystone / Anthony Anex

Intensive care workers are going into the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic exhausted, the Swiss Society of Intensive Care Medicine has warned. Hospitals in Valais are almost at their limit.

This content was published on October 25, 2020 - 11:11
SonntagsZeitung/Le Matin Dimanche/

Many staff had pushed themselves to the limit caring for coronavirus patients during the first lockdown in spring – and have not yet had time to recover.

 “Many say that they cannot cope with a second wave with 12-hour-long shifts,” Franziska von Arx-Strässler, president of the Swiss Society of Intensive Care MedicineExternal link said in interviews in the SonntagsZeitungExternal link and Le Matin DimancheExternal link on Sunday.

In additional, more people going into quarantine and the usual winter illnesses are putting staff numbers under strain.

On Monday, the Swiss Professional Association of NursesExternal link will be starting a protest week to draw attention to the staffing issue. This will culminate in a day of action on the square in front of parliament in Bern next Saturday.

Valais: at limit

Meanwhile, Canton Valais has warned that that its hospitals are about to go onto the highest coronavirus alarm level due to increased numbers of severely ill coronavirus patients.

In lower Valais, 100 out of 120 beds reserved for such patients are already taken, the cantonal government president Christophe Darbellay told SonntagsZeitung.

The canton is one of the most strongly affected by the second Covid-19 wave. Earlier this week it went into partial lockdown.

Darbelley said a total lockdown for the canton could be on the cards if nothing more was done. This would be an "economic disaster" for shops and building sites. He called for stronger measures from the government and more federal funding to help fight the virus and its consequences.

On Sunday the Geneva University Hospitals called on retired staff and those on unpaid leave to volunteer their services. The CEO, Betrand Levrat, said that the peak of 550 hospitalised Covid cases during the first wave would be surpassed in the coming days, news agency Keystone-SDA reported.

Sharp rise

The number of new Covid-19 cases in Switzerland has risen sharply in recent days. A total of 6,634 new cases – a record – were reported on Friday.

Switzerland’s Covid-19 scientific taskforce chief Martin Ackermann has already warned that hospitals across the Alpine country could be swamped with new coronavirus cases in the next two or three weeks unless the situation improves.

Ackermann said that hospitalisations were doubling week by week. The same goes for the number of intensive care cases and deaths due to Covid-19. Over the past 14 days 689 people were hospitalised, and 75 died, he said on Friday.

Many, but not all, Swiss cantons imposed additional drastic measures on Friday to combat the virus, which have come into force over the weekend. Several more upped measures on Sunday. This follows the Federal Council’s announcement of several national measures on October 18, like the compulsory wearing of masks in public buildings. It is due to set out further measures next October 28.

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