Finland's ICUs less busy as Covid hits younger population, expert says

However, the intensive care specialist warns that the fight against the pandemic is not over.

Photo of Stepani Bendel, senior physician in intensive care and anaesthesia at Kuopio University Hospital. Image: Sami Takkinen / Yle

There has been a marked decrease in the number of patients needing treatment at Finland's ICU units despite an increase in new Covid-19 cases, according to Stepani Bendel, senior physician in intensive care and anaesthesia at Kuopio University Hospital.

"The number of patients in intensive care units are in the 20s, which means the trend is where it was after the spring," Bendel explained.

Until recently, the number of patients needing intensive care treatment remained for months ranged in the 30s.

The Kuopio-based national ICU coordination office monitors the workloads of intensive care units across the country on a daily basis, reporting to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, among other bodies.

However, despite the decline in ICU needs, Finland has not yet overcome the pandemic, Bendel emphasised, as large numbers of confirmed coronavirus infections continue to be diagnosed.

"It's probably because the infections are among younger age groups and haven't spread to the older population, that is people over the age of 60," Bendel said.

Expert says fight to continue

He underscored that the key issues in fighting the epidemic continue to be the public's compliance with recommendations and restrictions, testing as well as vaccines.

Bendel said he hoped that Finland will be able to keep a step ahead of the epidemic but added that he was concerned about how the coronavirus variants could potentially increase the pressure on the country's intensive care units.

At its peak last spring, Finland's ICUs treated 84 patients at the same time, most of them in the Helsinki area. All of the country's university and central hospitals are equipped to care for patients suffering from Covid, but their capacities vary greatly.

There are a total of about 70-80 ICU beds within the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS) network, and just over 20 ICU spots at other university hospitals around the country.

Meanwhile, smaller hospitals have resources for up to five patients requiring ICU treatment.

However, hospitals around the country are better prepared for eventual increases in ICU patients, as more staff have received intensive care training since the beginning of the epidemic.