NL: Nearly 1,000 emergency room patients die per year because of long waiting time

AMSTERDAM - Nearly a thousand patients die every year because of long waiting times in the emergency rooms, according to the Dutch association of emergency doctors NVSHA. The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, will debate staff shortages in healthcare on July 6, NOS reports. 


The sometimes too long waiting times are due to a shortage of emergency room doctors and specialized nurses, NVSHA chairman and emergency room doctor David Baden said to the broadcaster. “The shortages lead to crowding and emergency room stops where no new patients can be admitted. That is stressful for the staff but downright dangerous for the patients.” 


A recent study in the United Kingdom examined the relationship between the risk of death and waiting times in the emergency room. The study included more than 5 million patients and concluded that a waiting time of four to six hours leads to one extra death per 191 patients. A six to eight-hour wait results in one extra death per 82 patients. 


According to NVSHA, 24 percent of patients who end up in a Dutch emergency room wait longer than four hours. That is about 180,000 patients per year. Using the Britsh results, the NVSHA calculated that this means 940 unnecessary deaths per year after an emergency room admission. 


Staff shortages in the entire medical chain are a significant cause of these waiting times. For example, if someone can’t go to the GP in the evening because there is no room, they often end up in the emergency room unnecessarily. That puts extra crowds in the emergency rooms and additional pressure on the staff.  


And emergency rooms are already understaffed. It is currently impossible to have an emergency room doctor in every emergency room at all times. According to Baden, there are currently about 600 of these specialized physicians. “A minimum of 1,200 doctors are needed for complete occupation.” 

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