General hospital care ‘nearly back to normal’

A doctor checking the pulse of a patient on an infusion

The number of patients treated at Dutch hospitals is almost back to pre-corona levels, according to the Dutch Healthcare Authority NZa.

It has found in a new study that the number of referrals from general practitioners to hospitals is almost back to pre-crisis levels. Mental health referrals have also almost returned to normal but cancer treatment is still down.

‘We estimate that the number of treated patients is now more than 90% of what we would expect based on last year’s numbers, and that is quite an achievement.’ NZa spokesperson Sietske Ligtvoet told NPO Radio 1 on Wednesday morning.

Data collected from doctors, hospitals and insurance companies showed 6.2 million people were treated at the country’s hospitals in the first half of 2020. In the same period in 2019, that number was 7.4 million people.

At the end of April, as corona transmissions were starting to decline, hospital referrals began to increase. In June, 150,000 more patients reported to a medical specialist than last year, as doctors began to make up delayed treatment. Despite this, waiting times have not increased, according to the NZa.

Cancer studies
Population studies for cancer have resumed but they are not yet at full capacity. Colon cancer research started again on May 11. In June,116,000 people were invited to come for screening, which is about 20% less than June of 2019. The population screening for cervical cancer started again on July 1 at normal levels but breast cancer screening resumed on July 8 at 40% of capacity.

Corona had a major impact on hospital activity, the study found. In the first six months of this year, there were nearly 800,000 fewer referrals to specialists than usual. As of March, there were 63,000 fewer referrals to mental health care compared to previous years.

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