How are Swiss hospitals adjusting to the soaring number of coronavirus patients?
Medical workers are at the forefront of the fight to curb the spread of Covid-19. How is Switzerland’s medical community coping with this challenge?
Many changes have been by Swiss hospitals to ensure that they have sufficient resources to treat the most critical coronavirus patients.
Most medical centres have asked their staff members to cancel all planned vacations until the end of April.
"We must ensure the availability of staff for the care of Covid-19 patients", management of Lausanne’s university hospital (CHUV) noted in a memo it sent to its personnel.
Medical facilities throughout the country have also postponed their non-urgent surgeries in order to free their personnel and machinery for the most pressing Covid-19 patients.
“We are busy preparing and setting up adequate infrastructure”, said Jérôme Pugin, the head of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Geneva University Hospital (HUG).
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Additionally, the canton of Geneva has requisitioned the ICU of the private hospital of La Tour. This measure allows Geneva's health authorities to have more places in intensive care to deal with the coronavirus epidemic.
"We are going to requisition all the necessary equipment, spaces and professionals”, said State Council President Antonio Hodgers.
Geneva cantonal doctor Jacques André Romand said that in order to ensure that hospitals remain adequately staffed, personnel with moderate symptoms of a cold can now work if they wear a mask.
“If abseeintism were to jeopardize the care of patients, especially those with Covid-19, I will be forced to ask the doctors and carers to work if their condition allows it”, Romand told RTS television.
Another measure HUG has taken this week is the introduction of a remote consultation service.
It would allow patients to speak with the hospital’s medical personnel by phone or video via the hug @ home platform.
Remote consultations are possible in several departments, including primary care, oncology, pediatrics, and cardiology. Other consultations will be added in the coming days.
The patient who accepts the principle of remote consultation receives an SMS with a code allowing him to participate in the teleconsultation. He is then contacted by the doctor and the consultation takes place by videoconference.
This measure aims to limit the number of patients who come to the hospital, while ensuring the continuity of their care, according to the HUG.
In Ticino, more than 200 cases have been registered to date and hospitals in the canton "are reaching the limits of their capacity", said Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset.
At La Carità Hospital of Locarno, which is dedicated exclusively to the treatment of COVID-19 patients, "resources are not infinite. For now we still have margin and we know that we have other resources to employ”, director Michael Llamas said in an interview.
But “the time must not come when we have to make the terrible decision to choose who to treat and who to not”, he added.
Daniel Koch, head of the communicable diseases division at Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) confirmed that Ticino’s “situation is dramatic”.
To avoid bed shortage in the canton’s hospital, scheduled serious surgeries are transferred to other cantons, in particular Zurich. Also, additional intensive care spaces will be created and equipment, including artificial respirators, is being delivered. "Ticino is not left to its own devices", Koch said.
However, coronavirus patients in intensive care units can’t be moved from one canton to another.
“People who need an artificial respirator are also the most fragile and the most difficult to transport and the risk of dying is very high”, Koch said.