The mayor of Aalst is declining to accept new transfers of coronavirus patients from Brussels as authorities of the Flemish city seek to keep enough beds available for local residents.
Several patients have been transferred from Brussels hospitals to Aalst, some 30 kilometres north of Brussels, as part of a standing cooperation agreement.
Under the agreement, Aalst hospitals have taken in several patients from Brussels as the hospitals in the capital region begin to grapple with an influx of new hospitalisations.
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But Aalst Mayor Christophe D'Haese has spoken out against more transfers in order to not compromise local care capacities, saying the Flemish city's "medical solidarity has reached its limits."
"There are limits to medical solidarity and I believe that that limit had now been reached," D'Haese told Flemish media. "I reasonably assume that the basic principle should be that an Aalst patient should be able to go to an Aalst hospital."
The patients being transferred out of the hospitals in the Brussels-Capital Region are both those with mild and serious coronavirus symptoms, including some who need to be put in the intensive care unit (ICU).
"I also think that that is the most medically responsible [course of action]," he added, stressing that a central concern was to avoid compromising non-Covid-19 patient care and procedures.
"Regular procedures —such as appendicitis or heart surgery— should also be able to continue," he said. "We cannot postpone these procedures because there are not enough beds available due to an influx of Covid-19 patients."
Following D'Haese's move to sound the alarm, consultations will be held to agree on a better distribution system between both hospital networks.
Officials with health institute Sciensano said that it was crucial that to uphold both the cooperation network between hospitals as well as each facility's capacity to continue providing regular care, which makes up a substantial portion of hospital revenue.
Sciensano virologist Steven Van Gucht said that the health institute as well as the Belgian Defence were closely monitoring the situation in hospitals.
"Like this we can immediately know how many new patients are being admitted into hospitals," he said, adding: "Normally, we start referring patients to another hospital when more than 15% of the normal number of beds in the intensive care unit are occupied by COVID patients."
On Tuesday, an ICU doctor in Brussels said that, as hospitalisations rose, her hospital was already having to postpone care and interventions for patients with serious ailments such as tumors.
The Brussels Times