As Belgium's infection and hospitalisation figures continue to rise, the university hospital in Brussels (UZ Brussel) has no beds left for new patients, according to its CEO Marc Noppen.
For the first time since early December, as many as 755 coronavirus patients are admitted to intensive care in Belgian hospitals today, according to preliminary figures from the national health institute Sciensano.
"We do not have a single bed left," Noppen told Het Laatste Nieuws. "Everything is full, and the situation is very similar to that of our colleagues in Ghent and other hospitals."
"We had to transfer 17 people to other hospitals because we are full," he said. "All the hospital beds are occupied, including the children's hospital."
Additionally, due to the coronavirus measures, Belgium has seen a late surge of RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus, a virus that usually occurs in children in mid-winter), resulting in children in need of hospital care right now, on top of the Covid patients, according to Noppen.
"Transferring children is rather exceptional, and if we have to, we take them to other hospitals in the neighbourhood as much as possible," he said.
Other patients, however, have been transferred to hospitals outside the Brussels-Capital Region, such as Antwerp, Limburg and Leuven. "But that is going to stop because all the hospitals are going to be saturated," Noppen said.
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On Tuesday, virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht predicted that Belgium would reach the mark of 1,000 Covid-19 patients in intensive care by 10 April if the trend continues like this.
Noppen expects a peak in the number of hospitalisations between 15 and 19 April. "Even before the government asked, we already switched to phase 2A, which means a substantial expansion of the Covid intensive care and nursing department," he said.
In concrete terms, Phase 2A means that all hospitals in the country have to reserve 60% of ICU beds for Covid-19 patients, which comes down to 1,200 beds of the total 2,000 in Belgium.
However, that also means that the hospital has less space for non-Covid pathology, which also presents itself very frequently, stressed Noppen.
"That means we will have to postpone non-urgent care again. These are procedures that can wait in the medical field," he said, referring to things like prostheses and less-serious procedures that also require post-operative care and personnel.
On Thursday morning, however, experts warned for exactly that postponement, as they fear it could have significant "collateral damage" that would make itself felt long after the initial emergency is over.
"Personnel, in particular, is the big recurring bottleneck, as they are needed for the Covid care," Noppen said. "But that's the third time in a year now, and it's getting tough."
The Brussels Times