Hospitals asking ICU teams not to go on vacation as staff shortages persist

AMSTERDAM - Some hospitals in the Netherlands dealing with an increased influx of Covid-19 patients have been asking their intensive care staff to stay keep showing up for work during the May vacation period. The Volkskrant reported on the issue after discussing the state of the pandemic with representatives of hospitals in Den Bosch, The Hague, Rotterdam, Sittard and Tilburg, among others.

“Many hospitals are now asking staff whether it is possible to postpone their holidays. Team leaders are asking their employees whether they can keep it up for a while longer, or whether a vacation is really necessary,” said Bart Berden, the chair of the Elisabeth TweeSteden Hospital in Tilburg.

The hospital representatives emphasized that staff should not by any means be forced to give up on their vacations. “That is really a draconian measure“, Berden said. He also added that a more coordinated approach might be necessary on a regional level to handle this issue.

According to Peter de Jager, head of the ICU at the Jeroen Bosch hospitals in Den Bosch, it is still worrying that many hospitals have to ask their staff not to take their vacation days even a year more after the pandemic started.  “We are asking people to cancel their vacation plans, even though they have never had more than three consecutive days off since the summer”, de Jager said.

The intensive care units in the country were treating 813 patients with the coronavirus disease on Monday afternoon, the most in about a year. Figures from patient coordination office LCPS show that there are currently 1,207 total ICU patients including those without Covid-19, with just 15 percent available capacity left in the intensive care units.

De Jager also added that the government should have come up with a clear plan in advance to make sure the May holidays wouldn’t cause problems in hospitals. “I've been warning about this for two months. Teams should no longer have to worry about whether they can go on vacation next week. Make a central appointment about this and communicate this to the hospital staff“, he explained.

Before the pandemic started, the ICU system was capable of handling roughly 1,150 patients.

The number of admitted hospital patients with Covid-19 rose by three percent between the afternoons of Sunday and Monday. The coronavirus infections seven-day average on Monday was at its highest point since January 9.




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