Soldiers deployed to help overwhelmed hospitals manage Covid-19 patients
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Soldiers deployed to help overwhelmed hospitals manage Covid-19 patients

Credit: Centre Hospitalier Bois de l'Abbaye

The Belgian army has started deploying soldiers to care for Covid-19 patients in hospitals in Liège, as the regular healthcare staff can no longer keep up.

The Liège hospitals themselves asked for the extra help, as their Covid-19 units were overwhelmed. In the municipality of Seraing, the first soldiers have started work, and will stay there for at least four weeks.

“A unit where patients who are at the end of their hospitalisation process, but are not yet healthy enough to go home, will be looked after,” Captain Cédric Smet told VRT News.

The soldiers will run a whole Covid-19 unit for 25 patients. “The aim is to reduce the number of patients who become ill at home again, and the number of readmissions,” Smet said.

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All military personnel deployed in the hospitals are trained doctors or nurses, and work in the medical services of the army. During a fast and intensive training, they were taught the workings of the hospital.

“Particularly necessary instructions were about how to put on and take off the protective clothing in the right way, as well as the software program,” said adjutant Melanie Letten. “We are not used to it either, so it is quite an adjustment.”

Military personnel are also assisting in other hospitals in the region, such as in the Centre Hospitalier Bois de l’Abbaye, where military personnel will be responsible for a Covid unit of 26 beds, aiming to reduce the pressure on the healthcare system.


According to Bernard Geurde, medical director of Centre Hospitalier Seraing, the hospital has surpassed the maximum occupancy rate for intensive care beds.

“Every day, we transfer between 10 and 15 patients to other hospitals, especially in Flanders,” he said. “However, those hospitals are also getting saturated.”

Plan B is transferring patients to hospitals in Germany, he said, as already happened on Tuesday, when the first Covid-19 patients were transferred via helicopter.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times