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Will Hospital Bed Shortage in Coronavirus Pandemic Lead to Deciding Who Lives and Who Dies?

March 9, 2020 (EIRNS)—The Berlin Charité clinic’s chief virologist Christian Drosten has harshly warned against complacency, that worse things may be feared for the coming autumn, when the immune system of many more people will be stressed, such as by the seasonal infections with influenza, rhinovirus, etc. COVID-19 will hit brutally, in this situation. The time between now and then must be used to visibly increase the reserve in intensive care beds, Drosten recommended. The 28,000 beds that the German hospital system has now, are already 80% occupied by patients with other illnesses, he pointed out. If there are not enough beds in the autumn, doctors would be forced to practice a new kind of triage: deciding whether to save the life of an older patient or of a younger one, rather than saving both.

Drosten’s drastic words prompted hysterical responses by some medical institutions, which, like Andreas Gassen, president of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV), said it made no sense to have more beds, because “we have neither the personnel, nor money.” That the obsession with austerity is exactly the problem that Drosten has tried to expose with his persistent attacks on complacency, politicians’ business-as-usual approach, downplaying the emergency. If there is budget-cutting in healthcare delivery, the population cannot be protected. Healthcare is not a commodity, it is a common good.

Germany’s government coalition leaders of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats met in Berlin yesterday for seven hours, a good part of which was dedicated to COVID-19. It was decided to support industrial and other companies by special tax breaks, easing conditions for paying short-work money, and even bridging loans for the impact of the virus on their workforce and production output. For the time being, however, this involves no more than a few hundred million euros.

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