Not enough nursing staff for a corona infection wave

Not enough nursing staff for a corona infection wave

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Sufficient beds but not enough nursing staff for corona infections

So far, Germany has been largely spared from infections with the new corona virus (SARS-CoV-2). According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), there were only a few confirmed cases of infection. However, an import of further cases to Germany must be expected and new transmissions and infection chains in Germany are also possible. If the number of infections increases in Germany, according to a current analysis, there would probably be enough acute beds available, but there would not be enough nursing staff for the care.

"If the number of corona patients in Germany should increase, Germany will probably have enough acute beds, but not enough nursing staff to care for them," warned the Westfälische Hochschule in a recent announcement. The calculation of the supply capacities had shown that if the coronavirus infections spread, the staff would be at the bottleneck. There is also no short-term remedy here.

Infection risk so far low in Germany

There are currently no signs of sustained virus circulation in Germany, so the risk to public health from the new corona virus remains rather low, reports the RKI. Nevertheless, vigilance and good preparation are required, stresses Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn.

How good are the supply capacities in an emergency?

Professor Bernd Mühlbauer from the Westphalian University of Applied Sciences has now calculated, based on the spread between the average occupancy of the hospitals and their possible maximum capacity, how well the care capacities would actually be set up in the event of an infection wave.

"With maximum utilization of all available hospital beds and an isolation period for infected patients of around two weeks, theoretically almost two million patients can be treated in Germany every year," explains Professor Mühlbauer. However, this number is reduced by two thirds if the patients have to be isolated in single rooms.

Bottleneck in the personnel situation

Theoretically, the average admission capacity for one patient per day and hospital is Mühlbauer. According to the expert, the bottleneck is not the acute beds, but the nursing staff. The personnel situation in the hospitals could quickly reach its capacity limits and additional staff "is in fact not available."

Impending overload of nursing staff

In the case of increased coronavirus infections, the burden on the medical and nursing staff would increase significantly, which in turn could lead to absenteeism due to illnesses in the staff and thus to a further burden on the other employees, reports Professor Mühlbauer.

Isolate suspected cases early

In terms of the precaution, the expert believes that it is particularly important to identify suspected cases as early as possible - before hospital admission - and to isolate them until they are admitted to a clinic at home (under the control of the health authorities). In this way, a too high admission rate "in case of suspicion" can be prevented and the burden in the hospitals can be reduced. (fp)

Read also on the subject:

  • Corona virus: spreading risk in Germany increased by carnival time?
  • Coronavirus: a vaccine against Covid-19 coming soon?
  • Coronavirus: Avoid pandemics through hygiene measures

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters


  • Westphalian University: Enough beds, but not enough nursing staff for corona patients (published February 21, 2020),
  • Robert Koch Institute (RKI): COVID-19 (Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2) (retrieved February 21, 2020),

Video: 5 Biggest Covid-19 Mistakes to Avoid as We Try to Flatten the Curve. Cause + Control. WIRED (January 2023).