The recovery area where patients wake up from surgery now accommodates non-COVID critically ill patients. | M. À. Cañellas

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Before the pandemic, Son Espases usually had 44 ICU beds (32 in charge of Intensive Care Medicine and another 12 in Resuscitation). The capacity at the moment has grown up to 81%, as they have managed to set up up to 80 beds for critically ill patients and thus assume the increase produced by the sixth wave of the pandemic. In case of needing more, they calculate, they could reach a maximum of 110, although at the worst moment they have opened up to 94 beds.

Yesterday there were 71 patients in ICU, 33 with coronavirus and another 38 for non-COVID pathologies. "We have 15% less ICU occupancy than in the worst moments, in March last year," explains Dr. Fernando Barturen, head of the Anesthesiology and Resuscitation Service of Son Espases hospital. While seriously ill patients with COVID have been filling the Intensive Care ICU beds, which are isolated and therefore more suitable for this type of patient, spaces have been made available in Resus for the rest of the patients admitted due to factors unrelated to the pandemic.

Severe non-COVID patients are admitted to what are usually anesthesia recovery or intermediate care areas and are attended by workers who are usually in the operating room. "They are those in the other ICU because there the patient is in respiratory arrest, in a hemodynamic situation, they do transplants... They are trained in the critical patient," Barturen explains.

At Son Espases, surgical activity has dropped to 50%.

"On the one hand it is a milestone because we continue to operate during the sixth wave when a year ago were only urgent and oncological cases, but on the other hand we are only doing half of the operations, increasing waiting lists," explains the head of Anesthesiology. Despite the fact that the number of COVID patients admitted has dropped slightly this week, the department is cautious; they believe that they have between ten and fifteen days left to keep their guard up and "it may be necessary to reduce the number of operations to 30%".

Dr. Barturen is also one of those who insist on the need for vaccination, "the population has the feeling that omicron is very light but more than half of the COVID patients in the ICU are unvaccinated," he said. "The 10% of the adult population that has not been vaccinated are taking up 20 critical beds," he insists. "If the other 90 % were not protected, we would need 200 more beds, we would have to be all strictly confined, and there would be many patients we would not be able to care for."