Hospitals running out of ICU Beds in Switzerland – not really 2.0 (update)

Today, we can again read alarmist news about hospitals running at or near capacity, like the following from 20min.ch:

Wie die Zürcher Gesundheitsdirektorin mitteilt, sind 42 Personen auf der Intensivstation, davon 24 am Beatmungsgerät. Das Universitätsspital Zürich ist zu 98 Prozent ausgelastet.

As the Zurich health director reports, 42 people are in the intensive care unit, 24 of them on the ventilator. The University Hospital Zurich is 98 percent full.

Source: 20min.ch

Let’s look at the official numbers from the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health again. Here, I have compared the numbers from November 28 with those of November 30:

Fig. 1 – – Hospital Capacity Switzerland November 28 and 30

For Switzerland we make some observations:

  • First, note the Total number of ICU beds for Switzerland. Nov. 28: 854, Nov. 30: 863. The total number of ICU-beds is not constant over time, it is GROWING (+9). So the “beds are x% occupied” news are grossly misleading;
  • Second, note the number of non-COVID-19 patients in ICU beds has grown quicker (+25) than the number of COVID-19 patients (+16). This is evidence, that COVID-19 is not the only driver for increased demand for ICU beds;

Let’s look at the numbers for Canton of Zurich:

  • First, note the Total number of ICU beds for Zurich. Nov. 28: 179, Nov. 30: 183. Number of beds were increased in two days (+4)
  • Second, note the number of non-COVID-19 patients has grown quicker (+5) than the number of COVID-19 patients (+4). This is evidence, that COVID-19 is not the only driver for increased demand for ICU beds;
  • Third, the number of available ICU beds has dropped by -5 and is now at 12 (6.6% of Total for that day)

So, the key observations are:

  1. The total “capacity” of ICU-beds differs from day to day, as, presumably, hospitals create new capacity as needed. Meaning: News like the above, that “hospitals are to x% occupied” are nonsense in this form, because they do not take into account that the capacity can be and is increased as needed (up to a certain maximum, of course, but we and they don’t know where that is);
  2. Contrary to what these press statements would make you believe, ICU beds are not only filling up because of COVID-19 patients, In fact, non-COVID-19 patients fill up ICU-beds in Switzerland quicker than COVID-19 patients do. So, the obvious question: What’s up with that? But nobody in this shitty news outlets actually asks these “obvious” questions – I wonder why…

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