Hospitals in Spain are transitioning to the new normal

by Lorraine Williamson
hospitals in Spain
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MADRID – Makeshift intensive care units and overcrowded hospitals seem to be a thing of the past in Spain. The vaccination campaign has ensured that less than 2% of hospital beds are currently occupied by Covid-19 patients.  

For IC beds, that percentage is currently less than 5%. This means that care has returned to normal and there is room again for postponed care. However, healthcare workers do not speak of a ‘back to normal’, but of a transition to the ‘new normal’. In almost all procedures, the coronavirus still has to be taken into account. A virus that, according to experts, has not yet disappeared, and probably never will. 

This new normal has been set by health authorities at 2% or less bed occupancy for covid care. On average, in Spain, 1.4% of hospital beds and 4.7% of IC beds are now occupied by Covid-19 patients. These appear to be the most recent figures issued by the Ministry of Health. 

Nowhere more than 10% IC occupancy for covid care 

However, the situation is not the same everywhere in Spain. But in no autonomous region, are more than 10% of IC beds used for covid care. Between 5% and 10% is in the regions of Aragon, the Balearic Islands, Castile and León, Madrid, Navarra, the Basque Country and La Rioja. But even in these regions, hospitals have announced that Covid-19 is no longer adversely affecting other care and that it has been fully restarted. 

Covid-19 is a disease like any other lung disease 

Medical specialists in Spain are positive about the future. Thanks to the vaccination campaign, Covid-19 is becoming a disease like any other lung disease, which, in exceptional cases, can lead to an IC admission. But the coronavirus will no longer be able to ensure overcrowding of the ICs, according to IC director Gabriel Tirado. In his Hospital Royo Villanova in Zaragoza, one of the ten IC beds is currently used for covid care. 

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At the Gregorio Marañón Hospital in Madrid, 23 IC beds were available before the pandemic. This was scaled up to 134 during the pandemic. The makeshift IC department in the old library has now been demolished and 58 IC beds are still available. Last Friday there were 3 IC beds unoccupied, a phenomenon that was a rarity even before the pandemic. Only one covid patient was added in the past 10 days. 

Death rate on ICs is decreasing 

The disease in the IC is also becoming less severe: where previously 30% of covid patients died, that percentage is now only 10%. 

Intensivists indicate that the vast majority of Covid-19 patients on the ICUs have not been vaccinated. A small minority are patients with a disturbed immune system. That is a good sign for the future if new waves of infection are to emerge. If these do occur, according to the specialists, they will have fewer major consequences for hospitals. The fifth wave, when only a third of the population was fully vaccinated, proved seven times less deadly than the previous waves. 

Pressure is increasing in the UK

According to the latest official data, the cumulative incidence of the coronavirus in the UK has skyrocketed to 894.2 infected per 100,000 population, as reported by ABC. With more than 40,000 new cases daily together with Russia and Turkey the highest in Europe. 

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