Intensive care beds could run out in a week, study predicts

A nurse at the University Hospital of Geneva explains how an intensive care bed works Keystone

Switzerland will run out of intensive care beds on April 2 owing to the progression of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich). Up to 1,000 additional beds may be needed throughout the country, it says. 

This content was published on March 27, 2020 - 11:09

Taking into account the current number of beds in intensive care units, estimated at 979, and the number of deaths linked to Covid-19, “our latest report suggests that the system is close to saturation, based on the available data”, said Thomas Van BoeckelExternal link from the department of environmental systems science at ETH Zurich and co-author of the report. 

In addition to canton Ticino, bed capacity may already be exceeded in the cantons of Vaud, Geneva, Valais and Graubünden, he said on Friday in an interviewExternal link with La Liberté and partner newspapers. “According to our models, we will reach a [wider] shortage on April 2.” 

From this date, if no action is taken, 86 beds could be lacking in Zurich, he said. “Shortages would also be felt in Bern and Solothurn. The situation could get much worse in Valais with more than 250 excess cases,” – or 1,000 in the whole of Switzerland, he added. 

Van Boeckel stressed that this is an estimate, which is not based on the data that hospitals have been required to submit to the government since March 13. 

The beds still available in the north, centre and east of Switzerland, as well as in the large hospitals in cities, could partially absorb the surplus of patients from cantons Vaud and Ticino, he reckoned. 

Almost 200 deaths 

The ETH Zurich researchers reconstructed the probable acute cases of Covid-19 to be expected, based on data from the Swiss Society of Intensive Care Medicine, the number of deaths in canton Zurich and figures from and by using differential equation models. 

As of March 27, almost 12,000 people had tested positive for Covid-19 in Switzerland and almost 200 people had died.

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