Significant decrease in pressure on IC beds in Spanish hospitals

by Lorraine Williamson
IC beds

MADRID – The occupancy of IC beds by covid-19 patients in Spain has now returned to the level of last October. In May, the number of corona infections fell by 28%. The percentage of intensive care occupancy also fell below the critical limit to 16.8%. 

Compared to February 1, when a peak was registered in the number of IC admissions (5000), a thousand IC beds have now become available. Before the pandemic, 4,400 IC beds were available in Spanish hospitals. This meant necessary bed expansion in operating and resuscitation rooms and other ad hoc solutions. 

Situation on IC beds became increasingly critical 

At the end of March 2020, 5,800 people with covid-19 already required intensive medical care with ventilation. In the Madrid region alone, IC occupancy was three times higher than normal with 1,500 patients in IC units. From April 2020, the number of occupied beds on the ICs rose and fell with the waves of epidemic.  With the situation becoming increasingly critical as each new wave arrived before pressure on the wards had diminished sufficiently. 

ASSSA - health insurance in Spain

35% of Spaniards vaccinated 

The current situation is the same as October 14, when there were 1,652 seriously ill covid patients in the hospital. However, thanks to the vaccinations, the epidemiological situation is now much more favourable. A new large wave of infections followed in October. And while the figures are now steadily declining, there is now an incidence of 135 cases per 100 thousand inhabitants. 35% of Spaniards (16.3 million people) have received at least one dose of vaccine. And 93% of the over-60s have now been immunised, significantly reducing the pressure on the ICs. 

Regional differences 

Only 3% of IC beds are used for covid care in the region of Valencia and Galicia. Whereas in the regions of Aragón, Catalonia and the Basque Country it is still more than 25%. And in Madrid even more than 35%. In the latter region, where there is still an incidence of over 200, there are now 460 corona patients on the ICU. 

The pressure in intensive care units does not decrease in proportion to the decrease in the number of covid patients. Ad hoc wards that were set up for covid care are now closed and postponed non-acute care is slowly resuming. In addition, it appears that the people who now end up on the ICU are on average there longer than during the first corona waves. This is because the average age is decreasing and with it the number of patients who die from the effects of covid-19. 

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