German hospitals warn of staff shortages amid surging COVID-19 cases

German hospitals warn of staff shortages amid surging COVID-19 cases

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Berlin
Joe from England has a swab sample taken in front of a doctor's practice to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Berlin, Germany, October 9, 2020. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi

BERLIN: German hospitals warned of staff shortages on Friday (Oct 9), saying the sharp rise in new coronavirus infections also meant medics, nurses and support staff were getting sick or needing to isolate, leading to strains in providing care for patients.

Germany, which has managed to keep the number of cases and deaths lower than many of its neighbours, is now seeing the biggest jumps in new infections since April, with more than 4,000 on both Thursday and Friday.

At the Frankfurt university hospital, twice as many employees caught the virus in the past two weeks as in the three months before, its medical director Juergen Graf said at a news conference in Berlin.

"This will be the bottleneck in the care supply," he said.

READ: German hotels to turn away visitors from COVID-19 risk areas

The internal problems were further worsened by more employees having to quarantine, said Ulrich Frei, director of medical care at the Berlin Charite hospital, who said new infections could multiply quickly.

Germany had a huge number of intensive care beds and there are ventilators, Frei said, but a lack of staff would be the issue. "The absolute crux of the situation is to not have enough care workers," he said.

Non-essential operations and treatments for non-coronavirus patients have to be postponed at the Charite due to the shortages, it said.

The German laboratories association warned meanwhile that testing labs in the big cities including the capital Berlin were working close to capacity.

In the past two weeks, more than 1 million tests were evaluated and capacity can only be expanded to a quite small extent, a spokeswoman for the laboratories association said.

This comes just as school holidays start in several states, and anyone living in a region classified as high-risk and who wants to travel domestically will need a test in order to stay at a hotel.

However, in Berlin, it already has become very difficult for travellers to get tested and long waiting lines are seen outside medical practices.

Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to consult on the coronavirus response with the leaders of Germany's states on Wednesday.

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Source: Reuters/aa

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