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Germany: Hospital bed occupancy remained low in 2021

August 30, 2022

Occupancy was kept minimal as hospitals focused on handling the waves of COVID-19 infections. Those who could were asked to delay their non-emergency treatments.

A nurse wearing a mask checking on a patient with coronavirus in a German hospital
Hospital bed occupancy in 2021 mirrored the low rate seen in 2020Image: Friso Gentsch/dpa/picture alliance

The number of beds in German hospitals being occupied by patients in 2021 remained unchanged from the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, and well below the pre-pandemic rate, the Federal Statistics Office of Germany (Destatis) reported on Tuesday.

Average bed occupancy last year was 483,532 for the whole year, of which 27,394 and 7,494 were intensive and intermediate care respectively — a deviation of less than 1% from the previous year.

The challenges posed by COVID-19 meant that many hospitals postponed treatments where possible, and patients opted to not spend the night unless absolutely necessary.

Strain on health care services

The bed occupancy rate in 2021 was just 68% in 2021 in comparison with 77.2% in 2019, before the pandemic.

This equates to 16.7 million cases last year and 19.4 million cases two years before that.

Although overall occupancy rates were reduced, healthcare workers had different challenges to face, including stricter hygiene standards and personal precautions such as testing and vaccination regiments aiming to limit COVID's spread.

Over 147,000 people have died in Germany from the virus since the beginning of the outbreak.

Cases in 2022 have not reached the summer lows seen in the previous two years, partly due to more contagious variants, partly due to theeasing of measures, and also because the virus is becoming more prevalent in the population, if not even endemic. But the situation has still left health care workers worried about another surge of cases in fall and winter.

Frontline hospital workers bear the brunt of rising infections, both from higher workloads and higher risks of being infected themselves, which in turn increases the workloads for their colleagues.

ab/msh (AFP, dpa)

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