Swiss hospitals to take French coronavirus patients

The Swiss healthcare system will be tested over the coming weeks, experts warn. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Three Swiss hospitals have agreed to provide intensive care treatment for six seriously ill coronavirus patients from the neighbouring Alsace region of France. However, experts fear that Switzerland’s health infrastructure will soon be stretched by the rising number of pandemic victims.

This content was published on March 22, 2020 - 12:17

Two hospitals in Basel and one in Jura, in northwestern Switzerland, said they would each take two French patients after the Alsace authorities sent out a distress call for help. The French region has been particularly badly hit following contagion among a large church service last month.

Hospitals in Germany are also providing help along with the Swiss hospitals that say they are providing help in the spirit of solidarity and international cooperation.

The number of daily new coronavirus cases in Switzerland breached the 1,000 mark on Saturday and is expected to keep rising for at least a week. The number of deaths rose to more than 50 at the weekend. Healthcare workers predict serious pressure on intensive care units around the country.

While the number of beds and equipment, including ventilators, can be increased, care of seriously ill patients will be constrained by a finite supply of specially trained medical staff. It takes two years to train up each intensive care professional.

Hospital staff are also at high risk of catching the virus themselves. This has been highlighted by the positive test for Thierry Fumeaux, head of the intensive care unit in Nyon and president of the Swiss Association of Intensive Care Medicine.

“Hospitals are concerned that they will not have enough staff or resources to cope if the number of infected patients continues to rise in the coming weeks,” he told the SonntagsZeitung newspaperExternal link.

The strain on health facilities is most severe in canton Ticino bordering Italy and in some parts of French-speaking Switzerland. Other regions of Switzerland still have more capacity to take intensive care patients. Fumeaux said he was confident that the federal authorities would respond to the difficulties.

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