‘Worse than spring’: German hospitals fear record number of coronavirus patients

The number of patients admitted to German hospitals is soon expected to exceed figures from the spring, when the country entered its first lockdown.

'Worse than spring': German hospitals fear record number of coronavirus patients
In October hospital beds were brought to Hanover's conference hall to accomodate the greowing number of patients. Photo: DPA

Germany will soon reach a new peak of intensive care patients receiving treatment during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Gerald Gaß, head of the German Hospital Association.

“In two to three weeks we’re going to exceed the level of intensive patients from April – and we can’t do anything to stop that anymore,” Gaß told Bild on Monday.

“Anyone who is admitted to hospital in three weeks is already infected today,” he added.

READ ALSO: Germany enters month-long partial lockdown

Gaß also announced that nursing staff from non-intensive medical areas would also be deployed in the intensive care units.

“That’s not optimal, but in such exceptional circumstances it’s necessary.”

As of October 31st, there were 21,682 occupied beds for intensive care coronavirus patients in Germany, and 7,539 available ones, according to Statista.

Uwe Janssens, president of the German Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine (DIVI), told Bild am Sonntag, that “in some states there’s absolutely no more leeway”.

“Berlin only has 14 percent of its intensive beds free, and in Bremen its 17 percent,” said Janssens, adding that the current situation is more dramatic than what Germany saw in the spring. 

Postponing non-serious operations

To better cope with the growing demand for both hospital staff and supplies, Germany’s hospital commissioner Andreas Westerfellhaus called for non-urgent operations to be postponed.

“Many intensive caregivers are working to their limit, and they are, rightly so, warning that the situation will get worse,” Westerfellhaus told Bild. 

“Only a set of measures will stop a catastrophe – for example, based on the circumstances conducting non-serious operations at a later date.”

Meanwhile, Social Democratic (SPD) deputy faction leader Bärbel Bas critised Health Minister Jens Spahn of the Christian Democrats (CDU) for not sufficiently protecting health professionals and risk groups. 

“Unfortunately, the announced test strategy (of free tests for all health care workers) came too late,” she told Die Welt on Monday. 

READ ALSO: Around Europe: How the relentless resurgence of coronavirus is causing unease and despair

With rising infection rates, it is now likely that more and more health workers are also unable to work, said Bas.

On Monday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control reported a drop in the number of cases, with just over 12,000 new infections within a day. However, the figure is often lower on Mondays as not all health authorities report their cases at weekends.

On Saturday, Germany recorded a record number of new infections, with more than 19,000 cases within 24 hours.


Peak – (der) Höchststand

Intensive beds – (die) Intensivbetten

Leeway – (der) Spielraum

call for something – fordern

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EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point.