Healthcare authority criticises plan to shut child heart units


The Dutch healthcare authority NZa has criticised a cabinet plan to concentrate heart services for children in two hospitals and close the current expertise centres in Groningen and Leiden.

The NZA is recommending that health minister Ernst Kuipers does not follow through on his predecessor’s plans to focus services for children with heart problems in Rotterdam and Utrecht because of the risk.

While recognising the need for a concentration of services, the plans as they now stand need to be looked at again because of the knock-on effect, the NZa said.

The cabinet had planned to create two centres where doctors can carry out enough operations a year to maintain their levels of expertise. But the plan, the NZa says, will undermine access to top level healthcare in Leiden and in the north of the country.

UMC Groningen is the only place in the northern provinces where very sick children can be cared for in an IC ward. Without heart specialists, acute care services in the north will no longer be complete and that is a risk for locals, the NZa said.

The situation is similar in Leiden because without patients there is little need to keep open the specialist child IC unit. In a worst case scenario, LUMV could lose its status as an academic hospital, the NZa said.

Kuipers has not yet taken a formal decision about the move. Nijmegen and Amsterdam specialist child heart centres were closed in 2009.

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