Thousands of lives would be saved by COVID-19-free areas in hospitals

COVID-19 is still ruling over the world and there are many different ways to catch it. One of the more reliable ones is going to the hospital. Although transmission rates in hospitals are fairly low, that’s where many people with COVID-19 are gathered. Now a new global study suggests that it would be a good idea to create ‘COVID-19 free’ hospital areas for surgical patients.

Hospitals do maintain high hygiene standards, but COVID-19-free areas are still very important. Image credit: Whispyhistory via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

This study, led by the University of Birmingham, analysed data from 9171 patients in 55 countries. Scientists found that pulmonary complication (2.2 % vs 4.9 %) and rates of death after surgery (0.7 % vs 1.7 %) were lower for those surgical patients who were treated in ‘COVID-19 free’ areas. This is a significant difference, because the number of COVID-19 patients in the hospitals is likely to continue growing for the foreseeable future, but at the same time millions of people have to get surgeries for other reasons. 4.7 million operations take place in the UK each year, of which around 550,000 are for removal of a cancer. Scientists estimate that 6000 unnecessary COVID-related deaths after cancer surgery could be prevented in the UK alone over the next year if COVID-19-free areas were set up.

Hospitals around the world are doing everything they can to ensure that COVID-19 patients and other people don’t mix in healthcare institutions, but that’s not easy at all. Especially since not everyone in hospital has a diagnosis of some sort. This essentially means that a lot of people who could have COVID-19 case are walking in the corridors, potentially causing lethal damage to cancer patients. 

Dr. James Glasbey, lead author of the study, said: “Major reorganisation of hospital services to provide COVID-19 free areas for elective surgery must be justified by evidence like this, as it redirects time and resources away from other services. We have proved that those efforts are essential in protecting patients undergoing surgery during the pandemic.”

It is important that hospitals are monitored for COVID-19 outbreaks. Separate hospitals for cancer surgeries may be required. This study presents strong evidence that COVID-19 does spread in hospitals, delivering complications to the most vulnerable. However, it is also important to understand the limitations of this study – just 27% of patients in this study had their care in these protected COVID-19 areas. Further studies might be needed.

COVID-19 areas are not easy to establish, but they are absolutely necessary. Hopefully, as the world braces for the oncoming second wave we are better prepared for what’s coming. We need to learn lessons we are presented with so that we approach future disease outbreaks with more power and knowledge.


Source: University of Birmingham

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