Since the start of the pandemic, there have been fewer residents in nursing homes across Brussels and Wallonia, with less staff employed in the capital, according to a regional study conducted by the Fédération des CPAS.
During the first Covid-19 lockdown, nursing homes in Belgium were viewed as a 'ticking time bomb' by various organisations.
These residential homes housed the population's most vulnerable members and, according to a study published in the Archives of Public Health journal, 11,369 nursing home residents died of Covid-19 between March and December 2020.
Thus, the groups representing municipalities and social services in Belgium's French-speaking areas, Union des Villes et Communes de Wallonie and Fédération des CPAS, wished to address two separate questions: what is the current situation like within nursing homes? And what has changed in the last two years?
To that end, a comparison was made between the current nursing home data from July 2020 to July 2021 and the most recent pre-Covid data from July 2018 to July 2019.
In total, the study showed that there are currently 548 nursing homes in Wallonia and 133 in Brussels.
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In Wallonia, 44,330 individuals are presently residing in them, which is 2,322 fewer residents than before Covid-19.
In Brussels, there are currently 11,323 people in nursing homes, 1,623 less than two years ago.
The study also examined the personnel of these care homes as well as the regional evolution of staff during a two-year period.
In Wallonia, there were 219 additional full-time employees, representing a 0.9 % rise on the last data. Even while nursing staff numbers fell, this was offset by a 7.3% rise in care assistants.
There are now 16.6 employees for every 30 residents in a private nursing facility and 19.3 for every 30 patients in public care facilities.
In Brussels however, there were 170 less full-time employees in nursing homes, which represents a 2.5% decrease.
This averages out to 17.4 employees per 30 residents, with 21.6 in the public sector and 15.3 in the private sector.
According to the study's author, Jean-Marc Rombeaux, the regional discrepancies might be explained by Wallonia adopting the conversion of nursing home beds to rest and care home beds at a faster rate than the capital.
Furthermore, Rombeaux explains that the increased number of employees in the public sector in Brussels is the result of a deliberate choice by the capital's decision-makers to preserve employment in spite of the pandemic.