Patients lying in corridors at national hospital

Photo: Eggert Jóhannesson

Photo: Eggert Jóhannesson

The combined effect of general overcrowding and the current seasonal peak is patients lying in hospital corridors and being transferred away to hospitals further afield.

This is the current worrying situation at Iceland’s National University Hospital. Pressure on services is high and the hospital is struggling to cope with a seasonal peak in hospital admissions, according to Director of Nursing Sigríður Gunnarsdóttir.

Full bed use the norm

“It has been a trend in recent times that pressure at the hospital has increased as the numbers of elderly people in society and those suffering from chronic illnesses have risen,” she explains.

A rule of thumb is that a hospital should in normal circumstances should run with a bed utilisation rate of 85%, in order to have spare capacity for spikes in demand – such as at the time of year. The National University Hospital has been running at 100%+ for some time.

A difficult time of year

This makes is hard to deal with peaks in pressure, says Gunnarsdóttir. This time of year brings viruses and stomach bugs, and the situation is not helped by extra cases of broken bones caused by the winter ice. The winter flu season has also now begun in Iceland.

Another issue is the waiting list for discharging well patients. There are currently some 100 patients at the hospital who are ready to leave but cannot due to a lack of care availability further down the line, such as places in nursing homes or home-help.

“We have been working on solutions and there are various things in the pipeline to help improve patient flows,” says Gunnarsdóttir.

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