Coronavirus has taken Dutch healthcare hostage, says hospital chief


Hospitals and family doctors must start resuming their normal care duties as the Netherlands adjusts to ‘the new normal’, Ernst Kuipers, chairman of Rotterdam teaching hospital Erasmus MC told television talk show Nieuwsuur on Tuesday night.

Kuipers, who also chairs the national coordination centre on patient distribution, said coronavirus has taken the health service hostage. ‘Family doctors are focusing on Covid-19, and this has led to less attention for regular patient care,’ he said. ‘The same goes for hospitals.’

A survey by Nieuwsuur and the national patient federation shows that two out of three patients whose planned operation or treatment has been delayed are facing problems because of this. One doctor told the survey: ‘the entire healthcare system is revolving around Covid-19’.

Kuipers told Nieuwsuur that some treatment can wait. ‘But there are a lot of illnesses, take heart and artery disease, cancer surgeries and chemotherapy, which can’t,’ he said. ‘You can delay these treatments for a couple of weeks but after that you will need to provide more intensive treatment.’

Fears that there is no capacity at hospitals for regular healthcare are unfounded and the risk of being infected with coronavirus during a hospital visit is very small, Kuipers said.

Intensive care

Meanwhile, Dutch doctors have given more details about the number of people currently being treated in hospital for coronavirus for the first time since the epidemic began.

In total, 4,284 people are in hospital, of whom around one third – 1,424 – are being treated in intensive care wards. Some 3,000 people have either been discharged from hospital or have died.

Officials have not said how many patients have been released from hospital after recovering, but figures from the Dutch intensive care association indicate at least 327 people have died while on an IC ward.

Some 2,100 people are known to have died from coronavirus in the Netherlands, but only people who have tested positive for the virus are included in the figures.

Experts now say they are not currently worried that the Netherlands will run out of intensive care beds after increasing the the total to some 2,400. The number of IC patients has risen by 15 since Monday, and 47 patients are being treated in Germany.

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