Never More Strain on Hospital, Chief Physician Says

Emergency room

New rules took effect today at Iceland’s National University Hospital of Iceland due to increased strain and an outbreak of respiratory infections. Mask use is once again mandatory for outpatients and visitors, and visiting hours have been reduced. Chief Physician of the Infectious Diseases Ward Már Kristjánsson told RÚV it is “the most strain that we have ever seen the hospital under.”

Mandatory mask use

Mask use is mandatory in all interactions with patients as of today, January 4. Inpatients are not required to wear masks, but outpatients and their chaperones are required to do so. Visitors and others entering the hospital are also required to wear surgical masks. In departments where COVID-19 outbreaks occur, staff are required to wear fine particle (FFP2) masks.

Visiting hours have been shortened and will be between 4:30 and 7:30 PM on weekdays and 2:30-7:30 PM on weekends. The hospital recommends guests come one at a time and wash their hands upon entering the hospital.

Exceptions may be granted

Sibling visits to the children’s hospital are only permitted in consultation with the children’s ward staff. Exceptions to all of the new infection prevention regulations can be granted by department or shift managers.

Read more about the National Hospital’s persistent problem of patient flow.

ICU Beset by Strep Throat, Other Respiratory Infections

landspítali hospital

A wave of serious strep throat infections combined with other respiratory infections has brought the intensive care unit to a breaking point, RÚV reports. The ICU has not seen as many inpatients since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Headed towards a state of emergency

There are as many patients at the National University Hospital’s intensive care unit today as there were during the pandemic, RÚV reports. A senior physician told the National Broadcaster that the ICU was headed for a state of an emergency; respiratory infections, such as strep throat (an infection of the upper respiratory tract, caused a bacterium known as Streptococcus pyogenes), have run rampant recently.

As of yesterday, 19 patients were staying in the intensive care unit (22 were staying in the ICU at its peak last weekend). There are only fourteen beds. The ICU has not seen such numbers for a long time.

“Not since the first wave of COVID-19,” Kári Hreinsson, Manager of Surgery, Anaesthesia, and Intensive Care Services at Landspítalan Hospital, told RÚV yesterday. “It’s been close in the past, with nearly 20 patients in total, but we’ve not exceeded these numbers.” He emphasised that none of this would have been possible were it not for the diligence and hard work of the staff.

Kári points out that a state of emergency was declared when 27 people were admitted to the intensive care unit with COVID-19. He says that it has been discussed whether a state of emergency needs to be declared, but the situation has not yet become that bad.

“This is not something that passes in two or three days, this respiratory infection epidemic that has been going on for quite some time and we don’t quite see it coming to an end yet.”

A series of serious streptococcal infections, in combination with the other respiratory infections that seem to be spreading throughout society, has added insult to injury.

“It makes for a much more dangerous disease and more difficult to treat,” Kári stated.

When there are not enough beds, intensive care patients are transferred to the post-surgical care unit (vöknunardeild). When asked if this affected other patients or elective surgeries, Kári stated that this was not the case yet. “But it’s something that could happen in the next few days.”