More routine operations abroad would shorten waiting lists: BNR


Operations that have been postponed because of the influx of coronavirus patients in hospitals could take place in Germany and Belgium but bureaucracy gets in the way, health experts have told BNR News Radio.

Some 320,000 operations were postponed between March 2020 and May 2021, according to figures from the Dutch healthcare council Nederlandse Zorgautoriteit.

Around 200,000 people are currently still waiting for their operations, the heathcare council estimated, and despite efforts to clear the backlog, waiting lists are still getting longer.

Professor of public health economics Jochen Mierau said going abroad would be a logical move in the circumstances.

‘Germany has almost no waiting lists and European rules say that national insurers must pay for treatment abroad if it cannot be provided in the Netherlands within a reasonable time span, and as long as there is capacity in Germany,’ he told the broadcaster.

Some operations are being performed abroad but more could be carried out if the logistics were easier, microbiologist and government Outbreak Management Team member Alext Friedrich said.

Red tape

‘The care system is so complicated that hospitals are looking at a financial loss every time a patient from the waiting list is operated on abroad, while insurers are faced with complicated declaration paperwork,’ he said. ‘Patients tell me that they get the feeling that asking to be treated abroad is not welcomed.’

If these hurdles are not tackled, waiting lists will rise further still, Friedrich warned.  ‘Long waits will  be more expensive in the long run. The quicker you treat people the better,’ he said.

Not all types of operation are eligible to be performed abroad. Acute care and complex operations are best handled at home but knee operations and gall bladder removals which can be done at outpatient clinics would significantly relieve the pressure on Dutch hospitals, Mierau told BNR.

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