German hospitals warn of staff shortages amid surging coronavirus cases

BERLIN (Reuters) - German hospitals warned of staff shortages on Friday. The sharp rise in new coronavirus infections also meant doctors, nurses, and support staff became ill or had to be isolated, placing stress on patient care.
Germany, which has managed to keep the number of cases and deaths lower than many of its neighbors, is now seeing the biggest leaps in new infections since April, with more than 4,000 on Thursday and Friday.
At the Frankfurt University Clinic, twice as many employees have been infected with the virus in the past two weeks as in the previous three months, said Medical Director Jürgen Graf at a press conference in Berlin.
"This will be the bottleneck in nursing," he said.
The internal problems were exacerbated by the quarantine of more employees, said Ulrich Frei, head of medical care at the Berlin Charite Hospital, that new infections could multiply quickly.
Germany has a large number of intensive care beds and there are ventilators, said Frei, but a shortage of staff is the problem. "The very heart of the situation is not having enough caregivers," he said.
Non-essential operations and treatments for non-coronavirus patients have to be postponed due to the shortage in the Charite.
The German Laboratory Association has since warned that the test laboratories in major cities, including the capital Berlin, are almost at full capacity.
In the last two weeks, more than 1 million tests have been evaluated and the capacity can only be expanded to a relatively small extent, said a spokeswoman for the laboratory association.
This happens right at the start of the school holidays in several states. If you live in a region classified as high-risk and want to travel inland, you need a test to be able to stay in a hotel.
In Berlin, however, it has already become very difficult for travelers to get tested, and long waiting times are seen outside the doctor's offices.
Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to consult with the heads of state on Wednesday about the coronavirus response.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke, Kirsti Knolle; editing by Maria Sheahan and Alison Williams)

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