100,000 francs: Why each Covid patient costs Swiss hospitals so much

Hospital staff treating a Covid patient in an intensive care unit.
Covid patients in intensive care often require five full time staff and more than 20 daily medications. Photo by MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP
On average, ICU patients in Switzerland can cost hospitals six-figure sums to treat, including taking 20 different forms of medication daily. Here’s what you need to know. 

Fortunately, Switzerland’s current rate of hospitalisations – both in general admissions and in intensive care units – remains lower than that of neighbouring Germany and Austria. 

However, those who are admitted cost hospitals significant amounts, with those in ICUs crossing the six-figure mark. 

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A study by Swiss insurance agency Santésuisse found that hospitals can spend well over CHF100,000 per patient admitted to ICUs with Covid. 

“In expensive cases with a long stay in the intensive care unit and on the ventilator, the costs per patient can be well over 100,000 francs,” Santésuisse spokesman Christophe Kämpf told Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes. 

Covid’s impact on internal organs can be so devastating that in addition to ventilators, patients are often put on machines to help kidney and heart function. 

A stay in the ICU can range from days to several months. A team of at least five people is required to care for someone in the ICU. 

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Patients who are hospitalised but who do not require intensive care still cost hospitals between 25,000 and 30,000 francs. 

20 different medications a day

Other than staffing, ventilators and associated costs, Covid hospital stays are so expensive due to the amount of medication Covid patients must take on a daily basis. 

Speaking with Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes, University Hospital Zurich (USZ) media spokesperson Martina Pletscher said Covid patients often require upwards of 20 different forms of medication on a daily basis. 

This includes drugs to improve circulation, anti-virals, painkillers, sleeping pills, antibiotics, vitamins, laxatives and inhalants, among others. 

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The dosages and variety of medications required by Covid patients is much higher than that for standard ICU admissions. 

According to Kämpf, Switzerland’s insurance agencies have paid out approximately a billion francs since the start of the pandemic, the vast majority of which has gone to care for Covid patients. 

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