German intensive care units stretched to breaking point as infections rise

German intensive care units stretched to breaking point as infections rise

Intensive care doctors in Germany have warned that hospital paediatric units in the country are stretched to breaking point due to rising cases of respiratory infections among infants.

The intensive care association DIVI said that a seasonal rise in respiratory syncytial virus RSV cases and a shortage of nurses was causing a catastrophic situation in hospitals.

RSV is a common, highly contagious disease that affects almost all babies and toddlers by the age of two, some of whom can become seriously ill. The easing of coronaviruses restrictions means that RSV is affecting a larger number of babies and children whose immune systems aren't primed to fend off, according to experts.

There are cases of RSV and other respiratory illnesses in the UK and the US, which is also suffering from a shortage of antiviral and antibiotics.

In Germany hospital doctors have to make difficult decisions about which children should be assigned to limited intensive care beds. Children with RSV or other serious conditions are being transferred to hospitals elsewhere in Germany with spare capacity.

A recent survey showed that fewer than 100 free paediatric beds nationwide and the situation could worsen, according to the DIVI.

If the forecasts are correct, things will get more acute in the coming days and weeks, according to Sebastian Brenner, head of the paediatric intensive care unit at the University hospital Dresden, told German news channel n-tv. We see this in France, for example, and in Switzerland. There are bottlenecks when it comes to treatment. If that happens, there will be bottlenecks. In certain cases, doctors were already unable to provide the urgent care some children need, according to others.

The situation is so precarious that we genuinely have to say children are dying because we can't treat them anymore, said Michael Sasse, head of paediatric intensive care at Hanover's MHH UniversityUniversity hospital.

The German health minister, Karl Lauterbach, said on Thursday that the government was easing some regulations to make it easier to transfer nurses to paediatric units, and will provide an additional 600 m euros $630 m, 515 m to paediatric hospitals over the next two years.

The EU Commission authorised the world's first one-dose drug against RSV last month.