In addition to the growing corona infection figures, supply bottlenecks are currently being felt in hospitals. Everyday equipment for operations, including sutures and cannulas, as well as special products for pediatric medicine are in short supply. The Tagesspiegel learned this from doctors at two large hospitals in Berlin. Hospital companies outside Berlin – therefore in Thuringia – have also recently expressed themselves in a similar way.
Although there are stocks, they are much smaller than in recent years. One reason is that the material often comes from China, but the flow of goods from there has been slow since the pandemic. Doctors also report that medical device makers are annoyed by tougher EU regulations that were passed in 2017 but are now missing goods.
In addition, in some Berlin hospitals, surgical trays are lacking, again because of the lack of sterilization staff. According to information from the Tagesspiegel, planned operations have been postponed in Berlin in isolated cases. After the holiday season, it threatens more often, said a senior doctor, because then more patients arrive, as the city becomes “more congested and more accident-prone”.
“Even large, well-known hospitals are reporting that the materials are running out,” said Christian Gräff, chairman of the health committee of the Berlin House of Representatives. “During the Corona crisis, it was discussed to strengthen the domestic production of medicines and medical devices – also to minimize dependence on China, for example. Too little has happened in this regard .” In Berlin, bureaucratic hurdles have even been added, although local manufacturers should be supported. CDU politician Gräff announced that he would discuss the issue in the House of Representatives after the summer recess.
The available equipment also costs clinics more. However, they can hardly pass on the price increase, because contracts with health insurers can only be adjusted after months of negotiations.
In the first year of the Corona pandemic, masks in particular were in short supply, which is why German companies stepped in to produce them. The former German government subsidized this to become less dependent on imports from China. According to “Der Spiegel”, the association of protective mask manufacturers nevertheless expects the end of domestic production: From 2025 the situation will resemble the pre-Corona era, and many companies will sell their machines by then to repay their debts. Hardly any German mask maker is likely to have recouped their investments despite the subsidies.
As has been widely reported, clinic officials also fear worsening staff shortages. The nurses are currently absent because they have to quarantine after positive Corona tests. The number of cases to be isolated is also increasing. In Berlin, almost 760 Corona patients were hospitalized this weekend – around 200 more than ten days ago.
Photo by Richard Catabay