In many countries the number of hospital beds has declined in recent years. This can be a problem during the coronavirus crisis. The following is an overview of the situation in Switzerland.
Because of Covid-19, health facilities around the world are under severe pressure. Many countries struggle to stop the spread of the virus to prevent hospital overload.
Switzerland has the highest number of confirmed cases of coronavirus per capita. Therefore, the hospital faces a big challenge.
Fewer and fewer hospital beds in Switzerland
As the graph above shows, the number of hospital beds available per 100,000 population in acute care has declined steadily in recent years. One reason is that the total number of hospital beds has decreased slightly each year. On the other hand, a growing population in Switzerland plays a role. Even if the absolute number of beds remains the same, fewer beds will be available per resident.
Switzerland follows the international downward trend
Switzerland is not alone in this downward trend. Hospital beds are being cut across Europe. Outside Europe, too, there are only a few exceptions in the trend of eliminating hospital beds. The most striking example is South Korea, which now has more beds in acute care than ten years ago.
Switzerland and Greece have a similar number of hospital beds
Looking at the latest figures available for OECD countries, Switzerland is at the center in terms of the number of hospital beds per capita – similar to Estonia, Greece or Luxembourg. Japan and South Korea have far greater capacities; in these countries, more than twice as many beds per resident are available in hospitals.
Number of beds in intensive care units: Switzerland is only average
Many questions now revolve around the capacity of the intensive care unit. This data is more difficult to obtain and the numbers may vary greatly depending on the situation. However, a group of scientists has taken the trouble to collect these figures for Europe in 2012. They are shown in the following graph.
In 2012, the number of beds in intensive care units (ICU) in Switzerland was slightly below the European average. The leading position is Germany, with more than 2.5 times more beds per person than Switzerland. Portugal and Sweden enter last. Both have less than half the intensive care beds of Switzerland.
These figures have of course changed since 2012. However, they are roughly in line with the figures announced by each government at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. Therefore the proportion may apply to the period before the pandemic outbreak.
However, many countries are in the process of increasing their ICU in the face of the coronavirus crisis. Switzerland receives support from the military. In addition, the Swiss manufacturer has supplied 900 ventilators.
Translated from German by Susan Misicka
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