The intensive care units in Norway can treat 647 patients in a crisis, according to a document VG has been given access to. The director of health tells what the situation looks like for the health service if all the places are used.
– There will be an important discussion in the future about whether the health service should also have a standing contingency that is greater than the capacity that can cover ongoing needs in a normal situation, says health director Bjørn Guldvog.
A document VG has been given access to shows how many intensive care patients the hospitals can have in a crisis situation.
Distributed over all the health trusts, this number is 647. According to VG’s corona special, 93 corona patients were admitted to the intensive care unit on Sunday. A total of 257 covid patients have been admitted to Norway.
The government has pointed to pressure on the health services as a reason for stricter corona measures being introduced.
But how critical is the situation for the health care system? And is it proportionate to the measures we now have based on the fact that the current number of admissions is far from what Norway has the capacity for?
This is how the intensive care units are distributed in the various health regions:
– Will be very demanding
Health director Bjørn Guldvog says that the regional health authorities report 278 intensive care places in a normal situation in Norway.
An upscaling to 647 will be very demanding for the staff and will result in a significantly reduced offer to other patients. It can therefore only be maintained over a short period of crisis.
Such an upscaling could lead to more patients having to wait for necessary operations or other treatment.
– This has consequences for the offer over time. It will hit harder those who have chronic disorders and who need follow-up, than those who are exposed to acute incidents, and who must be given priority, says Guldvog.
This will also give the hospitals a large backlog that will be difficult to catch up.
But is it really proportionate with today’s measures when the hospitalization figures are far from what Norway has the capacity for in a crisis situation?
The director of health says that the number of hospital admissions today is slightly higher than the number of intensive care units in a normal situation.
– On the other hand, there is a large proportion, about a third of covid-19 patients, who are significantly more resource-intensive than the “normal” intensive care patient. This is due to both the need for isolation and the treatment itself, he explains.
However, he points out that the biggest challenge now is personnel.
– There is a high burden on the personnel we have, with large sickness absence and reduced access to temporary staff.
Therefore, Guldvog believes that socially oriented measures are still necessary to be able to give corona patients and other patients good treatment through the wave they believe is coming.
This is what the hospitals say
I a press release writes Health South-East that the number of staffing intensive care units in a normal situation is just under 160.
“The updated plans say that it is realistic to be able to increase the number of places with a respirator to 270 and the number of places without a respirator to 73. In total, this is about 343 places,” it is written in the press release.
They emphasize that a proportion of the seriously ill corona patients do not need ventilator treatment.
– It is possible to increase the intensive care capacity in the short term, but with a significant increase in the number of places, the standard will be lower, which can have negative consequences for the quality of treatment, says CEO of Health South-East, Terje Rootwelt, in the press release.
Health South-East considers that the risk of insufficient staffing has increased compared with previous risk assessments. T
Rootwelt believes that staffing is the most important factor that limits the opportunities to increase capacity in the short term. It will also be extra vulnerable at the peak of infection of the omicron variant.
Helse Nord has 26 intensive care units with a respirator in a normal situation. In a short time, 80 intensive care units with the possibility of a respirator can be established.
They also describe that staffing is the main challenge.
“If there should be an extremely large number of patients at one hospital, the intensive care units in Helse Nord will see the intensive care capacity in the region as a whole, and use intensive care units at other hospitals as far as possible. In many hospitalized corona patients at the same time, they will have to postpone other ordinary patient treatment “, they state on own websites.
– Do not look at the situation as critical now
Baard-Christian Schem, Director of Health West, says that the figures reported to the ministry are the capacity they can increase to in the short term.
– In the somewhat longer term, which will be what is relevant if we get far more hospitalizations in the coming weeks / months, the capacity can be increased further, but for a limited period of a few weeks.
But the subject director does not think it is critical now.
– We do not see the situation as critical now, also because we are in a much better situation than at the start of the pandemic when it comes to equipment and drugs. However, persistent high stress is also problematic for the treatment of other conditions.
Health Central Norway has not been able to respond to VG’s inquiries on Saturday.