ACKGROUND: A sharp rise in COVID-19 infections threatened to lead to a local overload of intensive care units in autumn 2020. To prevent this scenario a nationwide relocation concept was developed.
METHODS: For the development of the concept publicly available infection rates of the leading infection authority in Germany were used. Within this concept six medical care regions (clusters) were designed around a center of maximum intensive care (ECMO option) based on the number of intensive care beds per 100,000 inhabitants. The concept describes the management structure including a structural chart, the individual tasks, the organization and the cluster assignment of the clinics. The transfers of intensive care patients within and between the clusters were recorded from 11 December 2020 to 31 January 2021.
RESULT: In Germany and Baden-Württemberg, 1.5% of patients newly infected with SARS-CoV‑2 required intensive care treatment in mid-December 2020. With a 7-day incidence of 192 new infections in Germany, the hospitalization rate was 10% and 28-35% of the intensive care beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients. Only 16.8% of the intensive care beds were still available, in contrast to 35% in June 2020. The developed relocation concept has been in use in Baden-Württemberg starting from 10 December 2020. From then until 7 February 2021, a median of 24 ± 5/54 intensive care patients were transferred within the individual clusters, in total 154 intensive care patients. Between the clusters, a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 15 (median 12.5) patients were transferred, 21 intensive care patients were transferred to other federal states and 21 intensive care patients were admitted from these states. The total number of intensive care patients transferred was 261.
CONCLUSION: If the number of infections with SARS-CoV‑2 increases, a nationwide relocation concept for COVID-19 intensive care patients and non-COVID-19 intensive care patients should be installed at an early stage in order not to overwhelm the capacities of hospitals. Supply regions around a leading clinic with maximum intensive care options are to be defined with a central management that organizes the necessary relocations in cooperation with regional and superregional rescue service control centers. With this concept and the intensive care transports carried out, it was possible to effectively prevent the overload of individual clinics with COVID-19 patients in Baden-Württemberg. Due to that an almost unchanged number of patients requiring regular intensive care could be treated.