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Coronavirus ICU patients hit record levels in March

The number of people receiving intensive care for Covid surpassed a record set in April last year.

Carita Vuorenpää ja Lotta Lantto leikkausalihoitajat Jorvin sairaalan Anestesia- ja leikkausosasto K:n leikkaussalissa.
There are about 50 coronavirus patients currently in intensive care. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

March saw the highest number of people receiving intensive care for coronavirus of the pandemic so far.

Hospital intensive care units received a total of 133 coronavirus patients, surpassing a previous peak of 115 reached in April last year.

On Wednesday there were a total of 172 patients in Finnish intensive care units, 50 of whom were being treated for coronavirus, down from a recent peak of 64.

30 of the patients in ICU on Wednesday were in the Helsinki and Uusimaa HUS hospital district.

There are 273 ICU beds in Finland, meaning around 100 of them are currently free.

According to data from the National Intensive Care Coordination Office the last week of March saw a slight decrease in ICU patients with coronavirus, although it remains to be seen if the downward trend will continue.

Lessons learned

Despite high case numbers, the load on intensive care units has been lower this spring, as there have been fewer coronavirus patients requiring simultaneous care.

Last April saw the highest number of coronavirus patients in ICU on a single day, 83. The highest number this year was 64 patients, recorded on 23 March.

Story continues after photo.

Stepani Bendel, osaamiskeskusjohtaja, KYS
Stepani Bendel believes that Finnish ICUs will handle Easter well. Image: Sami Takkinen / Yle

"Treatment times have been shortened, which means the strain on intensive care units has been better controlled," said Stepani Bendel, director of Kuopio University Hospital's Centre of Excellence in Intensive Care.

According to Bendel, the difference can be explained by the fact that we now know more about the virus, and are learning more about how to treat it.

"The cortisone-like dexamethasone is likely to have an impact improving a patient's ability to cope with intensive care. Patients are also being treated with less intrusive methods than before and will not be put on a ventilator if gentler treatments work," he said.

The average ICU stay for a coronavirus patient in March this year was 11 days, compared to 14 days in April last year.

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