Group of surgeons in hospital operating theater. Medical team performing surgery in operation room.

In addition to the increasing number of corona infections, delivery bottlenecks are currently being felt in hospitals. Everyday materials for operations, including threads and cannulas, as well as special products for pediatric medicine are becoming scarce. The Tagesspiegel learned this from doctors at two major clinics in Berlin. Hospital companies outside of Berlin – such as in Thuringia – have recently made similar statements.

There are supplies, but they are much smaller than in recent years. One reason for this is that the material often comes from China, but the flow of goods from there has been sluggish since the pandemic. Doctors also report that medical device manufacturers are annoyed by a stricter EU regulation, which had already been passed in 2017, but which is now causing goods to be missing.

In some Berlin clinics, surgical trays are also scarce, again due to staff shortages in sterilization. According to Tagesspiegel information, some operations that could be planned were postponed in Berlin. After the holiday season, that threatens more often, said a senior doctor, because then more patients would arrive because the city would be “fuller and more accident-prone”.

“Even large, well-known hospitals are reporting that material is becoming scarce,” said the chairman of the health committee in the Berlin House of Representatives, Christian Gräff. “During the corona crisis, there was a debate about strengthening the domestic production of medicines and medical devices – also in order to minimize dependence on China, for example. Not enough has happened in that regard.” In Berlin, there were even bureaucratic hurdles, but local manufacturers should be supported. CDU politician Gräff announced that he would like to speak about it in the House of Representatives after the summer break.

The available material also costs the clinics more. However, they can hardly pass on rising prices, because the contracts with the health insurance companies can only be adjusted after months of negotiations.

In the first year of the corona pandemic, masks in particular were rare, which is why German companies started production. The former federal government subsidized this in order to become less dependent on imports from China. According to the “Spiegel”, the association of protective mask manufacturers still expects domestic production to end: From 2025 the situation will be the same as in the pre-corona era, and many companies would then sell their machines to pay off debts. Hardly any German mask manufacturer is likely to have reintroduced its investments despite the subsidy.

As has been reported many times, clinic managers also fear the increased shortage of staff. Nursing staff are currently absent because they have to be in quarantine after positive corona tests. The number of cases to be isolated is also increasing. There were almost 760 patients with corona infections in hospitals in Berlin at the weekend – around 200 more than ten days ago.