One of the biggest challenges during the coronavirus outbreak will be ensuring there are enough qualified staff and equipment to keep the worst affected patients alive.
Thierry Fumeaux, head of the Swiss Society of Intensive Medicine, told RTS there are 82 intensive care units (ICU) across Switzerland. These have a combined 850 places, of which 750 are equipped with breathing equipment. It is not clear how many of these places are currently available.
However, Fumeaux is more concerned about a shortage of qualified staff than a shortage of equipment. “Currently we are not overloaded”, he said. But, “patients must be taken care of by trained competent teams. And it’s here that we risk having the most problems in the weeks to come.” He thinks the government might need to call on trainees, army personnel and retired doctors to meet demand.
Among a large sample of patients in China, just over 6% of those infected with COVID-19 became critical, which means they experienced respiratory failure, septic shock, and/or multiple organ dysfunction/failure, according to a WHO report. Most of this group needed breathing assistance.
Hypothetically, if around 6% of cases in Switzerland required breathing equipment, as they did in the China sample, and half of Switzerland’s ICU places equipped with breathing ventilators were available (375), Switzerland’s health system could potentially cope with up to 6,250 total active cases, as defined in the WHO report.
In French-speaking Switzerland there are around 330 ventilators. HUG hospital in Geneva has around 100, CHUV hospital in Lausanne has 130, the cantons of Fribourg, Valais and Jura have around 20 each, and the canton of Neuchâtel has around 40.