A major problem in hospitals in connection with the influx of Covid-19 patients is staff, more specifically, the lack of nurses at intensive care units.
Out of 19,000 registered and nearly 9,000 working nurses, there are only 536 ICU nurses in Latvia. One nurse cares for two patients non-stop during their shift.
“What would be perfect? One nurse per patient. Unfortunately, it is not possible, in our circumstances, because of resource shortages,” said Ģirts Freijs, Head of the Intensive Care Unit of Rīga Stradiņš Hospital.
Last year, when Covid-19 broke out uncontrollably, nurses were recruited to the intensive care units. In ten days, nurses from other departments were trained. If the situation becomes critical again, they would be ready to help. However, only the most devoted nurses are prepared to do this work permanently.
“The old generation still holds up. The young ones break down very often. Can’t withstand that tension,” said head nurse of the Stradiņš Hospital ICU, Inguna Leite.
The average age of ICU nurses is 46 to 48 years, according to Leite. Because of the constant tension and the frequent fatal outcome of Covid-19, the young nurses flee.
“It’s a very hard job. And if there are as many nurses as right now, they burn out and chronic illnesses flare up,” said Freijs, head of the department.
“Colleagues are already saying that we do not want the previous winter. We don’t want those protective gears. They’ve burned out so far that they just don’t want to go back to this situation. It’s a miner’s work. [..] You’re underground, you don’t have air — no access to oxygen, you have to wear a respirator. Yes, the work of a miner,” said Leite.