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STATISTICS

Norway saw fewer hospital patients in 2020 despite pandemic

Fewer patients were treated in hospital in 2020 than in 2019, with Covid-19 being the reason for the drop, according to Statistics Norway.

Norway saw fewer hospital patients in 2020 despite pandemic
Illustration photo by Audun Braastad / AFP)

The decline in patients has been largest for those awaiting planned treatments, but the number of people requiring immediate attention also dropped too, according to Statistics Norway figures.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, hospitals had to prioritise differently in 2020 as a result of the increased need for intensive care units.

“2020 was a year marked by pandemics and restrictions. In many places hospitals have had to prioritise differently due to the coronavirus, and perhaps particularly as the result of the increased need for intensive care,” the report said.

This has contributed to a decrease in the number of patients in hospitals at all levels of care.

The number of patients with 24-hour stays decreased by 7 percent. The total number of days spent in hospital fell by 11 percent or 380,000 fewer days in a hospital bed in 2020 compared to 2019.

Hospital stays lasting at least 24 hours include both planned and unplanned visits. In 2020 planned visits accounted for 29 percent of all visits, which is a decrease of 16 percent from the previous year, while visits for immediate appointments decreased by 3 percent.

READ ALSO: Norwegian senior medic calls for geographical division of Covid-19 restrictions

The figures show a decline for almost all diagnostic groups, but cancer patients had a smaller decline than other groups.

Planned treatment of various forms of cancer decreased by 8 percent, but acute help for tumours saw an increase of 11 percent.

This reverses a trend of numbers of patients in hospitals increasing year on year. The increases had primarily been driven by patients at outpatient clinics.

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COVID-19

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany’s spending in pandemic

The German Constitutional Court rejected challenges Tuesday to Berlin's participation in the European Union's coronavirus recovery fund, but expressed some reservations about the massive package.

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany's spending in pandemic

Germany last year ratified the €750-billion ($790-billion) fund, which offers loans and grants to EU countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

The court in Karlsruhe ruled on two challenges, one submitted by a former founder of the far-right AfD party, and the other by a businessman.

They argued the fund could ultimately lead to Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, having to take on the debts of other EU member states on a permanent basis.

But the Constitutional Court judges ruled the EU measure does not violate Germany’s Basic Law, which forbids the government from sharing other countries’ debts.

READ ALSO: Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The judgement noted the government had stressed that the plan was “intended to be a one-time instrument in reaction to an unprecedented crisis”.

It also noted that the German parliament retains “sufficient influence in the decision-making process as to how the funds provided will be used”.

The judges, who ruled six to one against the challenges, did however express some reservations.

They questioned whether paying out such a large amount over the planned period – until 2026 – could really be considered “an exceptional measure” to fight the pandemic.

At least 37 percent of the funds are aimed at achieving climate targets, the judges said, noting it was hard to see a link between combating global warming and the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Germany to fast-track disputed €200 billion energy fund

They also warned against any permanent mechanism that could lead to EU members taking on joint liability over the long term.

Berenberg Bank economist Holger Schmieding said the ruling had “raised serious doubts whether the joint issuance to finance the fund is in line with” EU treaties.

“The German court — once again — emphasised German limits for EU fiscal integration,” he said.

The court had already thrown out a legal challenge, in April 2021, that had initially stopped Berlin from ratifying the financial package.

Along with French President Emmanuel Macron, then chancellor Angela Merkel sketched out the fund in 2020, which eventually was agreed by the EU’s 27 members in December.

The first funds were disbursed in summer 2021, with the most given to Italy and Spain, both hit hard by the pandemic.

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