Coronavirus: Hospital admissions of Covid-19 patients double in two weeks in Spain | Society

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The fifth wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Spain is starting to have an effect on hospital admissions. With the infection curve on the rise since the end of June and the cumulative number of coronavirus cases over 14 days per 100,000 inhabitants now at 500.75 – the highest figure since February – the number of Covid-19 patients has almost doubled in the space of just two weeks: 4,705 people infected with the virus are currently hospitalized in Spain, according to the latest report from the Ministry of Health, released on Thursday. The report also notified 27,688 new infections and added 41 victims to the total death toll.

The pressure on the health system is still far from that observed in previous waves – at the end of January, there were more than 30,700 Covid-19 patients. But some hospitals in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands have already had to reschedule procedures related to other illnesses and suspend hospital visits given the rise in the number of new cases.

Another problem is that this latest wave takes place during the summer, when there are staff shortages due to vacations and insufficient staff to meet the growing demand for treatment.

Since the vast majority of infections are recorded in young people, who usually have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic and do not require hospitalization, it is the primary health system that suffers the most during this fifth wave.

Neither the experts consulted by EL PAÍS nor the central government expect this overload to be transferred to hospitals as has happened in other waves, again crushing intensive care units (ICUs). The majority of vulnerable sectors of the Spanish population are now protected against the serious effects of Covid-19 thanks to the vaccination campaign. But that doesn’t mean hospitals will be completely unscathed from the effect of the surge in cases.

We are very concerned about the situation in primary health care as the system was already in a very precarious situation

Guadalupe Fontán, General Nursing Council

While the occupancy of hospital beds by Covid-19 patients has increased over the past two weeks, rates vary from region to region, and the average across the country is still only 4% of beds available. This is compared to the end of January, when the figure was 24%. In Asturias and the Canary Islands, for example, admissions increased by 91% and 76% respectively. There are 92 Covid-19 patients in the first region, and 226 in the second.

In Castile and León, hospitals have not yet taken exceptional measures in hospitals to cope with the increase in the number of patients, but admissions have increased by 186% in 15 days, to a total of 260 Thursday. In Cantabria the number almost tripled to 58, and in Extremadura, Galicia and Murcia the number of patients doubled to 32, 103 and 42 respectively.

In the Basque Country, meanwhile, the figures are relatively stable, with 190 patients, and in Madrid, this figure only increased by 27% to reach 536 patients.

In Catalonia, the region with the highest incidence of the virus – 1,100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days – and with the greatest pressure on hospitals, the number of patients has tripled and the level of occupancy is almost double the Spanish average. The pressure on normal beds and intensive care units – there are 296 critical Covid-19 patients, who occupy almost 25% of intensive care beds – is such that some hospitals in Barcelona have had to reschedule non-critical procedures to cope with the increasing number of patients.

Vall d’Hebron, the largest hospital in Catalonia, is also restricting visits to avoid the risk of coronavirus transmission, and has reopened the area of ​​the Garbi building that was used in the third wave to treat Covid-19 patients.

In the region of Valencia, where admissions have increased by 182% and where there are more than 400 coronavirus patients, pressure on hospitals is increasing and in some cases, surgery schedules have had to be reorganized in order to do so. faced with an urgent request.

The exhaustion of healthcare workers after so many waves of viruses is wreaking havoc on staff, who have complained about the lack of resources since the start of the pandemic. “We are very tired,” says Guadalupe Fontán, nurse at the General Nursing Council and expert in health care management. “They are already organizing [Covid-19] circuits in hospitals, rooms to be opened or closed… everything is very well organized and well oiled. But we only have the human resources that we have and it is getting noticed. There is not enough staff to cover everything and it is very difficult to find professionals.

With the exception of Catalonia, however, the pressure of this fifth wave is not yet felt in intensive care units on average. There are currently 838 Covid-19 patients in critical condition across Spain, occupying 9% of intensive care beds across the country. At the beginning of January, the occupancy rate reached 45%, with 4,800 patients in intensive care.

Fontán warns, however, that this pressure on the health system and hospitals will have an effect on citizens. “We are very concerned about the situation in primary health care because the system was already in a very precarious situation. People need to go for tests, to have consultations, to have doubts. The situation in hospitals is also worrying, although they have experienced this several times already and it is like Groundhog Day. She warns that “whenever there is a spike, Covid takes priority and everything else has to wait. There are patients waiting for an operation or a test and everything is dragging on. This is currently happening in Catalonia, but in other regions it could happen in two weeks. We are still behind the virus.

english version by Simon Hunter.



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