STA, 14 January 2020 - In light of an expected rise in the number of Covid-19 hospitalisations, hospitals are taking the necessary steps to boost the number of Covid beds. Staff shortages, particularly a lack of intensive care staff, are the crux of the problem, Robert Carotta, the coordinator for Covid beds at the Health Ministry, said on Thursday.
Hospitalisation data show that there has not been any progress for a while, he told the government daily briefing.
"For practically the second month in a row we've been stuck on a plateau of between 1,200 and 1,300 hospitalisations."
The epidemic projections show that Slovenia will need around 1,500 Covid beds during the third wave, up by 10% on the maximum level of bed capacities in mid-December.
Carotta announced the total of beds would be increased according to the needs. He warned that the main problem was providing enough staff not just beds and equipment, particularly specialist staff to work in intensive care units.
"Not only is there not enough of them, but they are also tired with many on sick leave due to coronavirus infections."
Carotta added that a system of patient transfer to other hospitals that was set up in autumn was working fine with the Maribor dispatch centre playing a key role.
The situation in hospitals varies mostly according to epidemiological status in individual regions. Since mid-December, the Murska Sobota hospital in the north-east has been worst hit with 36% of its bed capacities used for Covid-19 patients.
The hospital had it worst already in autumn. In recent days, the number of hospitalisations has been on the rise again, the hospital's director Bojan Korošec said.
Moreover, the Covid-related mortality rate is most alarming in the Pomurje region - 269 Covid-19 patients per 100,000 residents died last year.
On the other hand, in the Izola and Valdoltra hospitals in the western Primorska region, which has been seeing one of the best epidemiological situations in the country, the numbers of Covid beds are near 10% of total capacities.
In the run-up to the third wave, efforts to lessen the burden on the Murska Sobota hospital began this week with its patients being transferred to the Izola and Slovenj Gradec hospitals.
The Nova Gorica hospital in the west is also struggling. Wednesday's rapid testing of staff and patients at its internal medicine departments, an emerging coronavirus hotspot, confirmed twelve new infections, the regional Civil Protection unit said today.
So far, 26 patients being treated at the departments have been infected. The hospital's Covid unit is currently recording peak figures or 61 patients, the hospital's medical director Dunja Savnik Winkler said. Moreover, more than 30 staff members have been infected so far.
In all the above-mentioned hospitals the share of Covid beds has increased compared to mid-December. Elsewhere, the situation has improved though, show data released by the ministry.
In the Jesenice hospital in the north, where Carotta is employed, the situation is currently the same as it was during the biggest strain on hospitals, kept under control due to help from UKC Ljubljana and the Golnik University Clinic of Respiratory and Allergic Diseases.
Carotta said that one of the future projects would be to ensure additional capacities for patients who have recovered from Covid-19 and suffer from lasting damage from the disease.
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