German hospitals face staffing crisis amid omicron threat

Financial problems, critical staffing shortage are putting hospitals under enormous strain, according to new report.

German hospitals face staffing crisis amid omicron threat

Germany’s hospitals are facing staffing shortages and budget problems as the country braces for a massive fifth wave of coronavirus infections, a new report warned on Monday.

Nearly four in five hospitals are confronting unprecedented staffing shortages, including specialists to work in intensive care units, according to the Hospital Barometer 2021 survey.

Some 14,500 nursing vacancies and 8,000 critical care positions remain open, according to the study conducted by the German Hospital Institute.

The representative survey found that nearly 60% of hospitals are also expecting financial problems due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic despite the government’s support.

Many hospitals have canceled non-urgent operations, while patient visits have also dropped, as people are avoiding hospital visits for fear of contracting COVID-19, according to the report.

Germany on Monday passed the mark of 7 million confirmed coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic last year.

The Robert Koch Institute reported 13,908 new daily infections and 69 coronavirus-related fatalities in the last 24 hours.

There were 4,201 seriously ill coronavirus patients in intensive care units on Monday, with 2,443 of them on ventilators, according to the DIVI association for emergency medicine.

While the country’s fourth wave has stabilized in recent weeks, authorities have been alarmed by the rapid spread of the omicron variant in neighboring countries.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach warned last week that the country should brace for a massive fifth wave of COVID-19 at the beginning of next month due to omicron.

He called on citizens to strictly follow anti-coronavirus measures and get their COVID-19 booster jabs to protect themselves against the mutating variant.

Health authorities have so far reported 7,225 omicron cases in Germany, but experts say the actual number could be much higher as the country sequences only a small proportion of positive tests.

The number of omicron cases is doubling every two to three days according to the experts, and the new variant is expected to become the most dominant strain in the country next month.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and premiers of the federal states agreed on tougher restrictions last week to curb the spread of the novel variant.

According to the new rules, large-scale sports events like football matches will take place without spectators. Major public parties and gatherings will be banned on New Year’s Eve. For private gatherings, a maximum of 10 people will be allowed to meet indoors or outdoors if everyone is vaccinated or has recovered.

Hüseyin Demir

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