From Iceland — Burden On Hospitals Steadily Increasing

Burden On Hospitals Steadily Increasing

Published April 3, 2020

Sam O'Donnell
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The burden on hospitals in Iceland has steadily increased. At the time of writing, 43 patients are currently hospitalised with COVID-19 and many hospital workers are working up to 16 hours a day to take care of them. Of those hospitalised, 11 are in the hospital’s intensive care, eight of whom are connected to a ventilator. Four have died.

Patients who are admitted to the hospital are closely monitored. “When their condition begins to become critical, they are transferred to intensive care, where we assess whether they need a ventilator,” chief medical officer at Landspítali’s intensive care unit at Hringbraut, Sigurbergur Kárason, told Vísir.

Procedure dictates a patient must be asleep while on a ventilator. “With this disease, it is beneficial to put people on their stomachs to open the lungs and get better air flow,” he explained.

Kristinn Sigvaldason, chief physician at Landspítali’s intensive care unit in Fossvogur, elaborated on the ventilators. “As many as 11 have gone into a ventilator, and two of those have recovered,” he said, adding that the people on the ventilators are well cared for. “People get sedatives and sleeping pills, along with nourishment. Every one of their needs are met. People do not feel bad,” he said.

The doctors emphasise that it is hard to say what the life expectancy of a patient who goes on the ventilator is. “It varies from country to country, but I’ve heard that it is now around 57% mortality,” Sigurbergur said. “Naturally, that depends a little on whether the patient chooses intensive care, how elderly the patients are, and how the group became infected.”

There is currently a visitation ban at Landspítali, so relatives are not allowed to be with their sick loved ones. “We are trying to do everything possible to have the best contact between relatives,” nursing director Ólöf Sveinbjörg Sigurðardóttir explained. “The doctors have come up with a very good system, and the priests with us are providing people with spiritual help. It really matters a lot. One can only imagine being at home and having sick relatives in intensive care.”

As ever, those looking for more information or advice should go to the Icelandic Government’s excellent COVID-19 help page.

Tune into our daily COVID-Cast for a deeper dive into the day’s developments.

Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.

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