“We immediately offered our help”

Klinikum Chemnitz was one of the first German hospitals to admit COVID-19 patients from Italy. An interview with Commercial Director Dirk Balster.

Patients from Italy arrive in Saxony
Patients from Italy arrive in Saxony dpa

Mr Balster, your hospital was one of the first in Germany to declare its readiness to admit patients from Italy with COVID-19. How did that come about?

South Tyrol asked for assistance in treating COVID-19 intensive-care patients, and at the end of March 2020 the State Government of Saxony enquired whether Klinikum Chemnitz was able to take any patients. Just two days later, two critically ill Italians arrived here at our hospital, where they have been receiving further treatment ever since. We immediately offered our help because we have the capacity. That enabled us to assist our Italian colleagues. And at the same time the medical and nursing teams have been able to prepare for treating COVID-19 patients who require ventilation in these very special circumstances.

How has the everyday routine changed in your hospital as a result of the corona pandemic?

Especially during the initial weeks, when the pandemic had just reached Germany, we implemented numerous measures all at the same time so that we would be ready for an unknown, but what was expected to be a high number of COVID-19 patients. They included reducing the number of planned operations, obtaining supplies of protective equipment, increasing the number of intensive-care beds, defining special wards for the group isolation of infected patients and suspected cases, reorganising the work processes of many colleagues as well as registering the capacities of nearly 30 hospitals in the region and monitoring and managing their COVID-19 occupancy rates. Thanks to highly committed and supportive staff in all areas of the hospital, however, we were able to accomplish this very well.

Did you have to make special arrangements for the patients from Italy?

Klinikum Chemnitz was already optimally prepared for treating critically ill and intensive-care COVID-19 patients at the end of March. Special preparation was therefore not required for the two Italian patients.

If European neighbours or other countries require support we would be glad to help.

Hospital manager Dirk Balster

In what state of health were the patients when they arrived – and how are they today?

The state of both patients on arrival here was stable. Both were being ventilated at that time. Over the following days their situation steadily improved. In the meantime they are both breathing independently again and are able to talk and give one another courage. Of course, a familiar common language greatly promotes the patients’ well-being. Communication with doctors and nurses is possible in German or through hospital colleagues who speak Italian.

Can you imagine taking in more patients from abroad?

Sufficient capacities for treating COVID-19 patients are currently available in our hospital. If European neighbours or other countries require support, we would be glad to help.

Dirk Balster, Commercial Director of Klinikum Chemnitz
Dirk Balster, Commercial Director of Klinikum Chemnitz Klinikum Chemnitz

Dirk Balster is Commercial Director of Klinikum Chemnitz in Saxony, a teaching hospital offering the highest level of medical care with 1,765 beds at three sites. It is wholly owned by the City of Chemnitz and is Germany’s fourth largest hospital in municipal ownership

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