As Europe prepares for new restrictive measures to control the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, the battle is being fought in hospitals again in several countries. Although preliminary data show that the new strain has a low morbidity compared to previous strains of the virus, the goal remains to prevent excessive pressure on the health system that would inevitably lead to death, write the Greeks from Naftemporiki.

The ability to maintain the normal functioning of health services “has been done unevenly between countries”, according to a report last month by the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Some states have shown “inventiveness and ability to absorb, adapt and transform in the face of shock.” But this “story of hope” has been counterbalanced by “a story of despair, which reveals a chronic underfunding of health systems, which is manifested by shortcomings in coverage with health services, labor shortages, poor information systems in health and many other weaknesses, ”the report said.

Some European countries have started with better resources than others. Germany and Austria, for example, have entered a pandemic with more intensive care beds relative to their population than other countries. According to the OECD, Germany has 28.2 hospital beds per 100,000 inhabitants, and Austria 21.8 compared to the European average of 14.1.

A major European economy that has been hit hard by the coronavirus is France, where the health system, according to health officials, has been underfunded and poorly managed for decades. France is in the midst of a new explosion of Covid-19, just before the full impact of the Omicron variant is felt, increasing the pressure on the health system and the people who work in it.

In France, the increase in Covid-19 infections, combined with the shortage of staff, has forced 7 of the 13 regions to activate hospital emergency plans, which has allowed them to postpone interventions, seek private sector assistance and cancel leave. for staff.

Hospital cases have been steadily rising since the end of November, reaching as many as 7,000 new hospitalizations per week, a number which, thanks to extensive vaccination, remains below the 10,000 to 15,000 hospitalizations per week recorded in previous waves. . However, government officials have warned that health care systems will continue to be overwhelmed by patients in the coming weeks, unless it turns out that Omicron causes a disease that is milder than expected.

France is not far from facing a health care crisis. A study conducted by the Federation of French Hospitals, which surveyed 330 institutions nationwide in November, found that 6% of beds were unavailable due to lack of staff, while about 5% of nursing positions were vacant.

It should be noted that France has tried to support its health system and correct the problems caused by the first wave of Covid. However, according to critics, the reform is not going well enough. Prior to the reform, French nurses earned less than the national average salary, and their salaries ranked 22nd out of 33 OECD countries. The new plan gives them an increase of 183 euros per month.

Similar problems have arisen in Germany. According to a 2021 survey by the German Hospitals Institute (DKI), about 72% of respondents said they had fewer intensive care staff than last year due to resignations, job changes or cuts in working hours. Nearly 90% of hospitals reported that not all of their intensive care beds could be fully functional.

Dr Natasha Azzopardi-Muscat, a senior WHO official investigating health systems in Europe, said staff shortages were the predominant problem for health services under heavy pressure.

Occupational organizations have begun to report higher rates of depression, stress, and insomnia among health care workers. A recent survey by the Irish Association of Nurses and Midwives (INMO) found that almost two-thirds of respondents cared for patients who died of Covid-19 and 85% said the experience had a negative psychological impact. on them.

“Surprisingly, 97% believe that (the Covid experience) has had a negative impact on their colleagues because they have seen them suffer day in and day out,” said Siobhan de Paor, an INMO official. The impact is beginning to be felt in the front lines, where some beds have had to be abandoned due to a lack of staff, especially in rural Ireland, he added. (Rador)

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