Dutch ICU system can’t scale up as planned due to staff shortage: Report

AMSTERDAM - Scaling up the national intensive care capacity to 1,550 beds is unlikely to succeed as several regions said they are unable to meet their targets, NU.nl reported after visiting hospitals in various regions in the country. The upscaling is hindered by medical staff now commonly suffering from exhaustion, or who have to remain isolated due to coronavirus infections.

The acute care regions (ROAZ) for the western part of the Netherlands, and Euregio, a cross-border area shared by the Netherlands and Germany, will not be able to supply the requested number of beds. In the north and in Brabant, upscaling will "probably not fully" succeed, the research found.

They also reported that in the regions of Zwolle, Noord (Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe) and Noord-West (Noord-Holland and Flevoland) emergency room beds intended for calamities such as major traffic accidents are now commonly being occupied by patients diagnosed with Covid-19.

A few other regions were unable to predict whether their capacities will allow for any expansion of intensive care. ICU expansion would need to be done at the expense of regular medical care with staff who normally work in other departments then being assigned to intensive care. Many non-urgent procedures are currently being postponed, and an increase of delays in urgent heart and cancer surgeries has also been recorded.

"In any case, difficult choices will have to be made," said a representative for the Limburg ROAZ. At the end of March, a target to scale up to 1,450 ICU beds was set as a step to get to 1,550 and then possibly 1,700. The first has not yet been achieved and a report released on Wednesday suggested 1,700 was impossible under current staffing circumstances.

There were a total of 2,499 people with Covid-19 in Dutch hospitals on Wednesday, a two percent decrease in 24 hours and also two percent lower compared to the previous week. For two weeks, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICU has remained above 700, equivalent to over 60 percent of the pre-pandemic ICU capacity.

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