Coronavirus: Swiss cantons ask federal authorities to restrict non-urgent surgeries
Health officials in the cantons most impacted by coronavirus infections are urging Switzerland's government to suspend non-critical medical procedures in order to free up facilities and personnel for the most urgent Covid patients.
Swiss hospitals in many parts of the country are reaching their saturation points and exceeding their capacities.
In the past two weeks, the number of coronavirus patients has more than quadrupled in Switzerland, increasing faster than hospitalisations in neighbouring countries.
And the numbers are expected to continue growing, health authorities say.
Given the alarming situation, cantons of Geneva, Neuchâtel, Jura, and Fribourg called on the Federal Council to order hospitals throughout Switzerland to put non-urgent procedures on hold, as was the case during the lockdown in the spring.
This measure should ensure that most critically ill patients could be transferred to other medical facilities, where intensive care beds and staff are available.
According to Laurent Kurth, Health Minister of Neuchâtel, "national restrictions must be implemented as soon as possible".
"We are doing everything to increase our capacities, but we will reach our limits soon. In French-speaking Switzerland, entire regions risk being overwhelmed and we must be able to count on support in the rest of the country," he said.
While medical facilities in the French-speaking parts are already struggling to accommodate patients, this is not yet the case in the German-language regions, where there are fewer Covid cases.
"They have no reason to react now, as they are less affected overall. This is why the Federal Council must take the lead," Kurth noted.
His Geneva counterpart, Mauro Poggia, is less diplomatic: "The German-speaking cantons which are fortunate not to be affected for the moment have an interest in showing solidarity. Because soon they too might need us."
However, federal authorities say their hands are tied.
During the first wave of the pandemic, the Federal Council quickly banned non-emergency interventions. But Switzerland was then in a state of emergency.
Today, such a decision falls within cantonal, rather than federal, jurisdiction, according to the Federal Office of Public Health.