Coronavirus: Private clinics in Switzerland to relieve pressure on public hospitals

In an unprecedented move, private clinics in Switzerland will share their staff, rooms, and equipment with the overcrowded public medical centres.

Coronavirus: Private clinics in Switzerland to relieve pressure on public hospitals
Genolier is one of the private clinics to treat coronavirus patients. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

In its raft of measures to combat the coronavirus issued on March 13th, the Federal Council requires all health establishments to renounce “all non-urgent medical treatment and intervention”.

Since then, the activity of private clinics in Switzerland has reduced drastically, making it possible to use their facilities for critical coronavirus patients.

“Today, we are in a situation of calm before the storm”, said Antoine Hubert, administrator of Swiss Medical Network (SMN), an umbrella group for private clinics. 

“We no longer have the opportunity to practice our usual operations, so we have freed up the necessary capacities to be able to intervene when the wave comes “, he added.

All the cantons have already asked for support from private establishments to cope with the influx of Covid-19 patients.

One of them is Genolier clinic in Vaud, which usually treats patients in orthopedics, cardiology, and urology. But for the past few days, the establishment has had a floor and an elevator dedicated especially to coronavirus patients.

The first one was admitted on Friday afternoon.

“For the moment, there are 14 available rooms, but we could also use other floors and accommodate up to 30 patients,” said Philippe Glasson, SMN’s president of medical coordination.

In Geneva, Adrien Bron, head of the Directorate of Health, said that private clinics in the canton were ready to welcome patients if the Geneva University Hospital (HUG) became saturated. About 500 beds will be available.

Last week Geneva authorities have already requisitioned the ICU of the private hospital of La Tour. 

“We are going to requisition all the necessary equipment, spaces and professionals”, said State Council President Antonio Hodgers.

In Fribourg, “we are witnessing a real cooperation between public hospitals and private clinics”, said Anne-Claude Demierre, State Councilor in charge of health.

The private General Clinic is closing its doors temporarily and making its staff and equipment available to the Fribourg Cantonal Hospital.

In order to relieve hospitals under pressure, the army will deploy its medical batallons as well. It will also provide respirators, personnel, beds and help with setting up infrastructure such as tents.


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‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

Though Covid has not been a nationwide problem in Switzerland during recent several months, the virus is circulating again and rates of contamination are expected to soar in the coming weeks.

'Over a million people' in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

While the new wave has not been expected to hit before fall or winter,  Swiss health officials now say 15 percent of Swiss population — more than 1 million people — could catch the virus before then.

This is a large number, considering that a total of 3.7 million people in Switzerland got infected since the beginning of the pandemic on February 24th, 2020.

“More than 80,000 new contaminations per week” are expected in the next two months, according to Tanja Stadler, the former head of the Covid-19 Task Force — much more than during the past two summers, when the rate of infections slowed down.

At the moment, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) reports 24,704 new cases in the past seven days — double of what it was in April.

“The numbers are expected to continue to rise. Note that most of infected people will not be tested, so the number of confirmed cases will be smaller on paper than in reality”, Stadler added.

Although according to FOPH, nearly all cases in Switzerland (99 percent) are caused by Omicron and its sub-variants, which are less severe that the original Covid viruses, “more vulnerable people are likely to end up in hospital, and long Covid cases are also likely to rise”, she said.

Stadler also noted that Omicron virus can’t be compared with the flu, “because we observe long-term consequences much more often during an infection with Omicron than during the flu. Also, Covid can trigger very large waves, even in summer, while large flu outbreaks are rare at this time of year”.

There is, however, some positive news.

“The most recent data shows that 97 percent of the adult population in Switzerland has antibodies against Covid thanks to vaccinations and previous infections”, Stadler said.

Also, “in the long term, things will stabilise. But in the years to come, there will probably be waves in the summer too”.

READ MORE: UPDATE: When will Switzerland roll out second Covid boosters?