Brussels hospitals are bracing for the Christmas period, saying that a third coronavirus wave would be “catastrophic” for their understaffed wards if residents don’t respect the limits on gatherings.
“Our employees cannot start everything all over again in January. They cannot keep it up anymore. They are working overtime so much, they have not taken their holidays, it must stop,” Drik Thielens, head of Brussels’ IRIS hospital network said.
Despite falling hospitalisation figures, hospitals in the capital remain under a lot of pressure, as many are understaffed and still recovering from the first wave of the pandemic.
Reported drops in the occupancy of intensive care units (ICU) do not translate to immediate relief for staff, as many patients must still remain in the normal wards of the hospital for some time after.
“During the second wave, staff were already tired to the bone — a third wave would be catastrophic,” Thielens told Bruzz.
As coronavirus hospitalizations surged in the fall, hospitals were forced to postpone and eventually cancel all non-urgent, non-Covid-19 appointments and procedures.
But despite a drop in ICU patients triggering the return to a lower phase of the Covid-19 management plan under which non-Covid procedures can restart, many hospitals still do not have the manpower to start going through the backlog of postponed operations.
“It is too early for that,” Thielens said. “We want to save ICU capacity as much as possible even if urgent and necessary procedures, such as chemotherapy, continue.”