Coronavirus: What is the priority triage in Swiss hospitals?

As the number of coronavirus patients is climbing — at least 7,014 cases have been confirmed so far — health authorities have established guidelines on which patients should be treated first if hospitals become overcrowded.

Coronavirus: What is the priority triage in Swiss hospitals?
Hospitals may have to prioritise medical care if the number of coronavirus cases soars. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

As long as sufficient resources are available, all patients requiring intensive care will be admitted and treated.

But if intensive care units become overcrowded, “rationing decisions will be necessary”, according to the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences (SAMW).

SAMW and the Swiss Society of Intensive Care Medicine have issued joint guidelines on the sorting of patients in intensive care services. 

“These are difficult decisions and there should be as little subjectivity as possible “, Thierry Fumeaux, president of the Swiss Society of Intensive Care Medicine (SSICM) told RTS television.

Top priority will be given to patients who have a favorable prognosis if treated in an intensive care unit (ICU). Those whose chances of making a full recovery are judged as poor, will not be prioritised.

Age will not be a determining factor, the two organisations said.

However, age is indirectly taken into account as part of the “short-term prognosis” benchmark, as older people more often suffer from other medical conditions as well.

Fumaux said that these criteria will also apply to patients who will already be in intensive care: “If a patient has been in ICU for a number of days with a condition that does not improve, we might have to interrupt the treatment”.

“We must be collectively ready to live in difficult situations in which choices that might seem arbitrary or unfair will be imposed”, he added.

Right now the situation is not yet dire.

“We are busy preparing and setting up adequate infrastructure”, said Jérôme Pugin, the head of the ICU at the Geneva University Hospital (HUG). 

READ MORE: How are Swiss hospitals adjusting to the soaring number of coronavirus patients? 

Also, all Swiss hospitals have cancelled non-urgent surgeries in order to free their facilities and equipment for the most critical coronavirus patients.

And medical centres have asked their staff members to cancel all planned vacations until the end of April.

Additionally, Geneva cantonal doctor Jacques André Romand said that 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 said.

READ MORE: UPDATE: What you need to know about the coronavirus crisis in Switzerland 

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