Lockdown avoided and missing intensive care beds

PANDEMIC

The editorial by the director Fabio Pontiggia on the decisions of Bern.

Lockdown avoided and missing intensive care beds

Lockdown avoided and missing intensive care beds

Economic disaster and civic degradation would be too high and completely disproportionate prices in a pandemic caused by a virus that in at least 95% of positive cases has no impact or has a slight impact on people’s health. Many have lost the sense of these proportions. It must be recovered, because the anxiety generated by the loss of the measure is damaging. When we say that yesterday in all of Switzerland there were 8,616 more people who tested positive for the coronavirus test compared to the previous day, we should immediately add that of those 8,616 people at least 8,200 (probably more) do not suffer any consequences, they are not sick people, if not a slight influence. The data that should concern us are other: hospital admissions, those in intensive care and deaths. In other words, the people on whom the SARS-CoV-2 virus attacks, sometimes with unfortunately dramatic consequences. They are the people to whom our health system must reserve everything the medicine of a modern and affluent country is able to do to avoid the worst. And here we come to the sore point.

It emerged in the answer given by Alain Berset to the journalist who asked how the authorities had moved to avoid overloading the hospitals. The latter is the factor on which the decision about a possible new lockdown largely depends. Responsibility for hospitals lies with the cantons and Berset said that the cantons only moved today, that is when the second wave started. It is a serious matter.

During the summer months of relative serenity due to the pandemic, nothing was done to increase the availability of acute hospital beds and intensive care, with the related medical and paramedical staff, to be ready, better than in spring, in the event of a second wave (which has come).
Fabio Ponteggia
Fabio Ponteggia

One wonders where the virologists and epidemiologists were in those months who continued to point the accusing finger at the undisciplined citizen, guilty of wanting to return to the normality of living together and to move freely (always observing the hygiene measures increased and social distance). Isn’t it their job to assess how many extra beds are needed in a society like ours to be prepared, and no longer in trouble, for the second surge in hospitalizations? Are we or are we not in a health emergency that can only be solved with the arrival of vaccines, which are not available for now? If so, because the Confederation and the cantons now have only a little over a thousand intensive care units available for a population of 8.6 million inhabitants, that is to say the same availability (perhaps even lower) of spring? Of the 1,071 places in intensive care, 725 are already occupied (207 by patients affected by COVID-19). Enhance availability in hospitals: also and above all this is one of those right choices that protect us. But it was not done.

That is why we are now once again in serious trouble. It is sad and it hurts to say it, but it must be said: if what was said on Tuesday and yesterday in Bern is well founded (intensive care saturated by mid-November), it means that we are a country no longer able to treat all its patients affected by a virus that - we repeat - in 95% of cases has no consequence on people’s health and therefore does not have a devastating lethality. In the year of the Lord 2020 and in a rich country like ours it is very serious. The State Council of the Canton of Neuchâtel yesterday decided to order nursing staff and to requisition the material resources of private clinics to cope with the increase in hospitalizations due to COVID-19. A totally displaced government, without an action plan prepared in advance. And we are in Switzerland.

The Federal Council and cantonal governments did not complete their summer homework.

Five hundred or one thousand extra intensive care beds cost that much? Does it cost millions and millions of francs to hire and train the necessary additional staff? Certainly. But these costs are far less than the economic damage that hospital failure will cause in the coming weeks and months. Because this is the real reason for the lockdown , avoided for now, but which hangs over us if the saturation of the hospitals becomes effective. There are no other reasons. We will not tire of repeating it: the lockdown we have already done it. It hasn’t solved anything. We are in fact at the foot of the staircase. And now we risk a second not because we are a community of irresponsible people (we have implemented all the restrictive measures that have been imposed on us), but because, due to hospital shortcomings, we may not be able to treat all the sick who are severely affected by the virus.

Let me be clear: it is absolutely right to do everything humanly possible to prevent the disease. But, having experienced the first wave, with the dramas and the pain it brought with it, and becoming aware of how the virus can make the curves that matter soar and with what numbers (hospitalizations, hospitalizations in intensive care, deaths) everything professionally possible must also be done to ensure that anyone who becomes seriously ill from the virus is treated, without sealing up society. This our country has not done. Federal Council and cantonal governments did not complete their summer homework. And such serious shortcomings and non-compliance now risk emptying the substance of the right to be treated. The fear that this could happen (and that according to the expert advisers of the Federal Council is just around the corner) has led to the new heavy choices of yesterday. We will pay a huge bill. Far heavier than what we would have paid if we had significantly increased the availability of hospital beds and medical and nursing staff in recent months.

In our canton, State Councilor Raffaele De Rosa has publicly said that everything is ready on the hospital front. We continue to doubt. But we would be delighted to find ourselves in the wrong.

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