Coronavirus: Brussels hospital network nearing maximum ICU capacity
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    Coronavirus: Brussels hospital network nearing maximum ICU capacity

    A network of public hospitals in Brussels warned that 90% of its ICU beds were already occupied. Above, a "middle care" unit created by the UZ Brussel university hospital to free up ICU beds. Credit: UZBrussel

    Several public health hospitals in Belgium risk reaching maximum capacity at the weekend amid a steady surge of coronavirus (Covid-19) hospitalisations.

    Beds in intensive care units (ICU) of the five hospitals belonging to the regional IRIS network are already 90% full, according to IRIS director Etienne Wéry.

    Wéry said that the hospitals expected to reach full capacity at the weekend, following a week during which daily hospital admissions have lingered steadily around 500.

    Nationwide, a total of 5,376 people are currently hospitalised due to the coronavirus, with 1,144 among them currently in an ICU, according to the latest figures on Thursday.

    If the current trend continues, Wéry said that the network would look to collaborate with other university hospitals in Brussels and, if necessary, with hospitals outside Brussels.

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    “This will enable us to avoid a complete saturation of our hospitals,” he said, in a statement which comes after intensive care doctors warned that hospitalisations would surge this week in Belgium.

    The IRIS network gathers the Brugmann and Saint-Pierre university hospitals, the HUDERF children’s hospital, the Jules Bordet hospital and four sites of the Iris Sud Hospitals.

    In Brussels, hospitals outside the IRIS network have also begun taking steps to ensure ICU beds remain available for Covid-19 patients in a serious condition.

    The UZ Brussels university hospital said it had set up a transitional “middle care unit” for Covid-19 patients not requiring critical care, saying in an email statement that it had reached about half of its ICU capacity for Covid-19 patients.

    The news comes as hospitals in Limburg, the Belgian province with the highest confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, have already started transferring patients to other hospitals to ease overcrowded wards.

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times