NEWS

Pressure mounts on Thessaloniki health system as ICU demand rises

STAVROS TZIMAS

Tents are seen set up in the parking lot of Thessaloniki’s AHEPA Hospital on Wednesday, as it struggles to cope with the influx of coronavirus patients. [ANA-MPA]

TAGS: Coronavirus

In response to what appears to be an uncontrollable surge in coronavirus cases, health authorities in the northern port city of Thessaloniki are in a state of emergency as the average daily rate of infections exceeds 500, with the curve showing no signs of flattening.

According to the mathematical models of Aristotle University professor Dimosthenis Sarigiannis, in just one week and in the midst of the lockdown, active cases in Thessaloniki increased by 40%, from 40,000 to 60,000, with the reproduction number climbing to 1.8 and daily tests showing that 32% of those tested were positive for the virus.

Under this stifling pressure, the health system is close to its limits, if it hasn’t already reached them, prompting the highest possible mobilization to prevent an outright collapse.

Of the 148 Covid intensive care beds that serve the needs of Thessaloniki (including the hospitals of Halkidiki, Katerini and Kavala), 132 were occupied on Wednesday and new patients are increasing by the hour.

Indicatively, the AHEPA hospital alone, which was on duty, received 86 Covid-19 patients on Wednesday.

Joining the effort to help authorities cope with the spike, the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) has provided hospitals with detachable kiosks and tents to be set up in hospital courtyards if necessity dictates, as well as a high-tech disinfection machine. There are also thoughts of using the Vellideio Conference Center as an ICU.

According to reports, the 424 General Military Hospital of Thessaloniki, which already has its own ICU, is even preparing to convert the rooms in its underground nuclear shelter into treatment wards. Moreover, a plan is in place for the transport of patients to Athens or elsewhere.

With anxiety peaking along with fear, the question lingers as to how Thessaloniki reached the position it’s in, considering that it had successfully passed the March quarantine test.

Many have pointed the finger at complacency on all levels, which, combined with the hope that the worst was over, led to a misguided anticipation of a return to normalcy. Another reason was the pressure on bars, cafés and other businesses to remain open so as to stay afloat amid a recession.

Meanwhile, a nationwide curfew will come into effect on Friday and will apply from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m.  A record-breaking 43 new deaths were announced on Wednesday and 2,752 new infections, with 635 detected in Attica and 777 in Thessaloniki.

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