Hospitals near capacity but extra Covid beds available

Hospitals in some regions of Switzerland are about to reach capacity as the number of admissions of Covid patients continues to rise. Keystone/Alessandro Crinari

Beds in Switzerland’s intensive care units could soon reach capacity as the number of Covid-related hospitalisations continues to rise.

This content was published on November 18, 2020 - 10:08

A government delegate said only 242 of the fully certified 900 beds were still free. A national medical association has set quality standards which include sufficient staffing of intensive care units with specially trained care personnel. 

“They are still at disposal an additional 500 beds that can be made available,” Andreas Stettbacher told a news conference on Tuesday.

However, a senior representative of the Federal Office of Public Health warned it wasn’t fair on hospitals to ask them to open new wards and to put health care personnel under pressure.

There are currently about 540 Covid patients in intensive care units, accounting for around 60% of the total patients in such wards. 

Instead she called on the population to observe the hygiene rules to halt the spread of the virus.

Similar warnings about overcapacities were also issued during the first wave of infections earlier this year but the Swiss health system did not collapse.

The number of daily infections is currently around 4,500 – and official data show a trend towards a slow decline in Covid-19 cases over the past two weeks.

However, the number of Covid-related deaths is expected to rise in the next few days. On Tuesday, 142 new deaths were reported bringing the total to about 3,300 this year.

There’s an ongoing controversy over an alleged lack of cooperation between hospitals in different regions of the country when it comes to admitting patients. Western Switzerland has been particularly hard-hit by the second wave of the pandemic while hospitals particularly around Zurich, central and eastern Switzerland continue to carry out regular surgeries.

Interior Minister Alain Berset publicly criticised the largely autonomous 26 cantonal health authorities for their failure to prioritise Covid patients.

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