Hospitals running out of ICU Beds in Switzerland – not really

This is posted for future reference. The data covers the period from 2001 to 2019 (inclusive) – thus it is pre-pandemic data.
As we can see from the data, the number of beds in this period have been reduced by 12%, despite the fact that the population grew by 19%, a rise in hospitalizations by 25% during the same period.


Here is another view on the number of ICU beds in the Canton of Zurich for 2018 – which is also pre-pandemic. The article raises he same points as the above (reduction of number of beds, despite growing population):


It makes two key points. The first:

The graphic shows the occupancy of an average Zurich hospital over the course of the year. The data is based on a survey of seven Zurich hospitals. The fictitious Zurich “average hospital” shown here has a maximum of 325 beds. It actually operates an annual average of 300 beds. Of these, an average of 245 beds are actually occupied. The utilization is thus 81 percent. The hospital in the example mentioned has an average of 55 free beds as an operationally necessary buffer. Among other things, they are necessary to have sufficient capacity available for emergencies. Without free beds, patients have to be turned away or transferred. The Zurich hospitals are not interested in offering too many beds. The hospital management controls the number of beds operated according to demand. Experience has shown that fewer patients come to hospital in the summer months or over Christmas. With a reduction in the number of operated beds, the effective supply is reduced and operating costs can be lowered. It works like this: Either fewer staff are deployed and the smaller teams look after fewer beds. Or entire stations or floors are closed for a certain period of time – the staff is given free time.

Translated from German by Google

and the second:

In reality, the political demand for higher hospital occupancy rates means that hospitals are putting fewer beds into operation. They are therefore more often fully utilized. Patients have to accept longer waiting times, electively planned operations have to be postponed and emergencies have to be forwarded to other hospitals. This often also harbors a health risk. If there are bottlenecks for planned interventions, there is also the risk that freedom of choice will be restricted and those with supplementary insurance will have faster access. In the long term, this would lead to two-tier medicine.

Translated from German by Google

We can thus see, that a occupation rate of 80% of ICU was nothing unusual even before the pandemic in 2020, and that it was as political choice to reduce the number of beds for cost reasons. Also, the hospitals have the number of beds that they need according to demand and are not interested to offer lots of empty beds, also for cost reasons. The hospitals are, by the way, capable of increasing the number of beds available should there be a need.

As a conclusion, we can see that the Swiss health care system, namely the hospitals, are not running “over capacity”. In fact they run below capacity and at the not unusual occupation rate of around 80%.

That the Swiss Federal Council now claims that restrictions on and suspensions of constitutionally guaranteed human rights are necessary in order to “protect the health care system” because it is “over capacity”. Can’t get any more disingenuous than that.

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