As the number of hospital admissions in Belgium continues to climb, hospitals have been ordered to move to Phase 1B of the government’s distribution plan. All non-urgent care is to be postponed.
The order comes in a letter from the federal health ministry, sent in the face of an increase in hospital admissions over recent day. This morning there are more than 2,000 people in hospital suffering from Covid-19, with 523 of them in ICU. According to the latest figures available, 269 of those are being maintained on a ventilator.
Health minister Frank Vandenbroucke (sp.a) had earlier in February asked hospitals to move to Phase 1B, but at that point there was no mention of non-urgent care. And within days after the notice, the daily figures began to stabilise, so the change was moved to the back burner.
Now, however, the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that the change is inevitable, including the postponement of non-urgent care.
That change alone will be of concern to doctors and patients alike. Already, people are reluctant to seek hospital appointments because of fears of Covid-19. That means that necessary tests and investigations are not being carried out as early as they should be, and a disease or disorder diagnosed at a later stage is always more difficult to treat.
“Necessary medical interventions will of course still take place,” said Wendy Lee, spokesperson for the health ministry. “This is about care that can be postponed, so that the departments are not unnecessarily burdened.”
Phase 1B of the distribution plan means that 50% of beds in intensive care units should be reserved for Covid-19 patients – around 1,000 beds across the country. According to today’s figures, that quota is more than halfway reached.
At the same time, four times as many beds – 4,000 nationwide, are to be reserved in other departments. At today’s levels, that quota too is more than half-filled.