Four out of ten general hospitals in Belgium, whether public or private, is operating in the red, according to a study by Belfius bank. The category excludes institutions like plastic surgery clinics, psychiatric hospitals and eye and dental specialist units. The study covers 92 hospitals.
A similar study one year ago showed a total of 30% in the red, with 24 hospitals showing a negative cash flow. This year the number has risen to 39 institutions.
“The sector is like the Titanic heading for the iceberg,” commented Geert Gielens, chief economist at Belfius.
And the coming years promise if anything to be more difficult in the area of financing which affects everyday operations but also longer-term organisation. Problems on the horizon include the greying of the population (older people take up a disproportionate amount of resources compared to their numbers), continuing digitalisation and the advance of medical techniques.
Federal health minister Maggie De Block, herself a qualified medical practitioner, said she had “taken all the necessary steps, often in the face of much opposition”. In 2015, she said, she predicted the decline of hospital finances, and introduced a series of measures intended to combat the effect.
“To adapt the hospital sector to the needs of the patient and still remain financially sound, a fundamental reform was required.”
The hospitals took in €14.5 billion in 2007, an increase of 2.7% on the previous year. Pharmaceutical charges increased by over 11%, largely because of new drugs for immunology and cancer treatments. At the same time, staff costs went up by 3.7%.