Hospitals face delaying heart and cancer ops as coronavirus cases rise


Several hospitals in the Netherlands are being forced to delay heart and cancer surgery because of the shortage of staff, as more beds are taken up by coronavirus patients, the Volkskrant reported on Sunday.

The national acute care association said on Friday that it wanted to scale up the number of IC beds by 100 to 1,550. This, hospital chiefs say, will have an impact on the number of staff available for regular care.

The paper bases its claim on a ring round of hospitals and IC chiefs. Some 800 people are currently being treated for coronavirus in intensive care wards, the highest total since the first wave.

Until now, the impact on regular hospital services had been limited to delays in operations to treat issues which are not life threatening, such as knee and hip ops, the Volkskrant said.

However, national acute care chief Diederik Gommers said that now some open heart surgery and cancer treatments are being delayed.

‘These are operations you cannot delay for more than six weeks,’ he said. ‘We had said we did not want to reduce services but we are now at the point where we cannot stick to that.’

Sick leave

The reason for the situation is not the shortage of beds or equipment but the lack of staff, Gommers said. Absentee rates are as high as 10% in some hospitals.

The high absenteeism rates are due to coronavirus infections as well as mental and physical exhaustion, Gommers said.

Despite the pressure on hospitals, Gommers said he supported experiments using fast tests and events, ‘as long as they do not lead to an increase in infections’.

‘People should not think everything is going well,’ he told the paper. ‘Within hospital walls, we’ve never had it so tough.’

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