Our intensive care units responded successfully to the challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Although the year was tough, we achieved impressive results in patient care.

As the coronavirus pandemic began to pick up speed in spring 2020, we were able to boost our intensive care capacity within 3 to 4 weeks. At the peak, and taking all temporary intensive care units in the HUS area into account, we had 86 COVID intensive care beds, of which 46 were in use. This was more than enough for dealing with the first wave of the pandemic, but it required retraining of operating room personnel and a severe curtailing of planned surgical procedures.

“In 2020, the number of surgical procedures decreased by 15%. The prognosis for coronavirus patients in intensive care was excellent by international standards: we lost only one in seven patients in intensive care,” says Director Ville Pettilä.

Average stay in intensive care: 10 days

The second wave of the pandemic in the autumn caused less of a burden on our intensive care units than the first. However, at busy times we have transferred individual coronavirus patients to intensive care units at other university hospitals to avoid cancelling planned surgical procedures and to be able to ensure intensive care for other patients.

“Compared with the first wave, the COVID patient load in intensive care in the autumn was easier to deal with,” says Minna Bäcklund, Head of Division, Perioperative, Intensive Care and Pain Medicine.

In 2020, HUS treated 1,203 patients for coronavirus infection. Of these, 213 were admitted to intensive care. The average time spent by patients in intensive care was 10 days. For other illnesses, the average time in intensive care is about 4 days.

During the second wave of the pandemic, we set up COVID intensive care facilities at the intensive care units at Jorvi (U2) and Meilahti. The Surgical Hospital now has a ward dedicated to the care of coronavirus patients, but we have not needed the temporary intensive care unit there since the summer.