Berlin (dpa) – Intensive care units are getting tight, intensive care doctors warn. Some doubt that the corona pandemic is the cause of this. A fact check.
CLAIM: The intensive care units are only getting tight because the beds have been reduced enormously. Overall occupancy has barely changed over the course of the pandemic.
EVALUATION: This is misleading and partly wrong.
FACTS: Some users in social networks argue with figures from the intensive care register of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine (Divi) and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). At first glance, they seem to show that the total number of intensive care beds occupied in Germany has been around 20,000 for about a year. At the same time, the number of free beds is decreasing.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind when reviewing the data on intensive care unit use. “Nobody dismantles beds, but we simply don’t have the staff to operate them,” said a divi spokeswoman for the German news agency (dpa). A free bed can only be registered as free in the intensive care unit registry if a clinic has enough doctors and nurses to care for a patient in it.
How many nurses are needed has changed several times over the course of the pandemic. In addition, according to a Divi spokeswoman, there are absenteeism due to sick clinic staff, which has increased in the second wave.
In the beginning, there were also lower staff limits. When it was reentered and finally honed one nurse for every two intensive care patients during the day in February, hospitals had to remove beds from the intensive care registry for which they had no staff. “As a result, the total number has fallen formally,” said Christian Karagiannidis, one of the directors of the Divi intensive care unit registry, in an explanatory video. “But it does not correspond in any way to a reduction in the number of beds, rather it corresponds to the real, real reproduction of the intensive capacity we have available in Germany.”
But why didn’t intensive care unit occupancy increase in the corona waves with the increasing number of Covid 19 patients?
There are two main reasons for this: “In intensive care units an occupancy rate of 80 percent is the absolute upper limit,” said another head of the Divi intensive care registry, Steffen Weber-Carstens of the Berlin Charité, at the outset. from April. Despite the corona pandemic, clinics should keep free intensive care units available for daily operations. Otherwise, the victims of a serious car accident or two or three stroke patients could no longer be adequately cared for in one day, a Divi spokeswoman explains.
For this to succeed, planned surgeries are canceled or patients are moved – the clinics are switching “from regular surgery to emergency surgery,” according to the Divi Intensive Care Register website. According to the Divi spokeswoman, treatment of the large number of Covid 19 patients at the end of December and the beginning of January was only possible because, for example, other patients were transferred to other wards earlier than usual.
The second reason is that in the statistics for all of Germany, regional overload in intensive care units and less vulnerable regions balance each other out. How regionally the occupancy differs is shown by a map in the Divi Intensive Register, which shows the share of free beds at neighborhood level. Intensive care physicians currently mainly see bottlenecks in large cities and metropolitan areas.
To understand the extraordinarily high occupancy rate of intensive care units, one must also consider the number of Covid 19 patients in intensive care units: this curve shows a steep upward trend and is currently around 4800. The previous peak value was more than 5,700 at the beginning of this year, the Divi intensive care registries fear that there could be 6,000 Covid 19 intensive care patients soon.
Recently, most intensive care units have reclassified their business situation as limited, for example in terms of personnel or equipment. That was the last time it was on the second wave. The intensive care units have been sharing this self-assessment of their situation since the start of the pandemic with the Divi intensive care registry.