Health care staff shortages could become a problem in the coming coronavirus wave

If hospitals have trouble caring for coronavirus patients in the coming weeks, it’s mainly because they don’t have enough staff. That shortage will determine whether they can handle the influx, rather than the number of patients. That’s what hospitals say in a survey by ANP. Even before the pandemic, the health care system suffered from staff shortages, and those shortages worsened during the Covid-19 years. As the number of infections and admissions increases, health care workers will also get sick and drop out. Then fewer and fewer people will be available to treat more and more people.

Dutch hospitals are currently treating nearly 600 people who have contracted the coronavirus. Within a month, the pressure has doubled. In the coming weeks, the utilization is likely to increase further toward 800 coronavirus patients. In the National Coordinating Center for Patient Spread (LCPS) worst-case scenario, the number of coronavirus patients admitted will actually be well over 1,000. That would be the largest increase since last April. The pressure is rising, especially on nursing stations.

However, Groningen University Medical Center (UMCG) claimed it can quickly switch to the new wave if needed, but “we won’t have enough staff to both admit additional Covid-19 patients and perform regular treatments. So that means regular care will have to be postponed if the pressure due to Covid-19 increases again. “To what extent depends of course on the numbers of extra patients,” said chairman Ger Sieders of the so-called capacity team of the hospital.

Hospital Radboudumc in Nijmegen said it saw the new wave coming and is deploying extra people. “We have noticed since this week that absenteeism among staff is increasing. This is causing us to have to temporarily close beds in some departments and cancel some operations, despite being more flexible in some departments. If the inflow increases further and the accumulated absenteeism lasts longer, this may temporarily lead to more postponement of care that is not urgent or urgent.”

Rijnstate Hospital in Arnhem, Beatrix Hospital in Gorinchem and Groene Hart Hospital in Gouda say staff shortages have been causing problems for some time, regardless of the number of coronavirus patients. “When there is a major influx, we have to manage it. We do that, for example, by asking staff to work extra shifts, by using nursing reservists to help, and by hiring independents,” said the Beatrix Hospital.

Other hospitals expect to get through the coming period without too many problems. This applies to large hospitals such as Amsterdam UMC, Elisabeth-Tweesteden (Tilburg) and HagaZiekenhuis (The Hague), but also to somewhat smaller hospitals such as BovenIJ (Amsterdam), Van Weel-Bethesda (Dirksland), Streekziekenhuis Koningin Beatrix (Winterswijk), St. Jans Gasthuis (Weert), Wilhelmina Ziekenhuis (Assen), and Slingeland (Doetinchem).

When asked to explain the new influx, hospitals mentioned carnival and winter sports, and the arrival of new virus versions. The time of year also plays a role, according to medics. Infectious diseases circulate more easily in the winter. They also take into account that the protection of repeat shots may have decreased slightly. At-risk groups received that vaccination in September, about five months ago.

Reporting by ANP

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