Clinic overload due to Corona: How other patients suffer

Status: 11/28/2021 12:20 p.m.

The increasing number of Covid patients exacerbates the situation in the intensive care units. According to the hospital company, around 75 percent of clinics have to postpone planned operations. With sometimes serious consequences for the patient.

Because of the tense situation in the intensive care units, many clinics in Germany can no longer maintain normal operations. This also means that more and more hospitals have to postpone operations that can be planned. According to the German Hospital Association, this is now the case in more than three quarters of the clinics.

The situation is really increasingly dramatic and sometimes leads “to physical and psychological stress for the affected patients”, said the chairman of the board of the German Hospital Association, Gerald Gass. For hospitals, postponing operations that can be planned is currently the method of choice in order to be able to continue providing care for acute cases.

Shifts often put a strain on the psyche

“I try to see it rationally, but sometimes I get angry,” said a 63-year-old former nurse, whose hip surgery was once again postponed, to the dpa news agency. She still has no perspective as to when the time will come.

According to the hospital society, orthopedic operations are among the typical operations that can be planned. When the former nurse from Buchloe im Allgäu turned to the Bundeswehr hospital in Ulm for her intervention in September, her operation was scheduled for spring 2022. It has now been postponed indefinitely. There are days when she can hardly walk, reported the woman, who does not want to read her name in the media. The uncertainty and how to deal with the pain have become so stressful that she struggles with depression.

The long waiting times are also related to operations that had to be postponed in the last severe corona wave and still could not be carried out. According to the hospital company, 22 percent fewer hip prostheses were operated on from October 2020 to February 2021. But even with cancer treatments had and should be further restrictions, it said. Evaluations showed that the number of breast cancer operations has decreased by six, and that of colorectal cancer operations by as much as 18 percent. We now know about the serious consequences for patients, says hospital company boss Gaß. According to doctors, studies show that later surgery appointments can have an impact on a patient’s findings or the chances of success, especially in cancer patients.

Patient advocate sees legal uncertainty

Patient advocates also see patients exposed to a legal gray area. The definition of operations that can be planned is legally indeterminate and practically intangible, criticized Eugen Brysch, director of the German Foundation for Patient Protection. There is no official list of medical interventions that could be postponed in the event of an impending overload. This also leads to great uncertainty among patients.

That is why Brysch calls for a uniform rule when it comes to which operations should be postponed in view of the congestion in hospitals in the corona pandemic. “The federal and state governments have a duty to immediately provide transparent and comprehensible criteria,” said Brysch. Brysch criticizes that each hospital is currently determining which patient is being treated and which is currently receiving no help. In addition, it is unclear whether this disproportionately affects those with statutory health insurance.

“Covid-19 radar” required

In the pandemic, hospitals are required to postpone planned interventions in order to keep capacities free for corona patients. Compensation payments were introduced for this. According to Brysch, it is also unclear when a hospital will reach its limit. “A Covid-19 radar would provide clarity here.” Sick people, those infected with corona and the deceased as well as the occupancy of the beds that can be occupied on all wards should be shown on a daily basis.

Due to the continued high number of new corona infections, the hospital company expects an increase in postponed, plannable operations. This means that even more people in Germany will soon have to forego their operation for the time being.

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