‘Very fragile’: not all hospitals still have available intensive care beds
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‘Very fragile’: not all hospitals still have available intensive care beds

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The situation in Belgium’s hospitals is “very fragile” at the moment, the head of the emergency medical assistance department of the Federal Public Health Service, Marcel Van der Auwera said during a press conference on Friday.

At the moment, only 82 places are still available for Covid and non-Covid care, and four more for burn victims (two for adults, two for children), but not every hospital has a surplus bed, so some patients have to be transferred.

“In the night from Sunday to Monday, we were confronted with a heavy fire in Brussels, after which it was a puzzle to find a bed in intensive care for the severely injured victims,” Van der Auwera said.

To illustrate how few beds are currently still available, he gave the example of someone who was admitted to a Brussels hospital, but was eventually hospitalised in Bruges.

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“Someone else arrived at the emergency department in Charleroi and has to go to Sankt Vith (in Belgium’s German-speaking community),” Van der Auwera said, adding that he does not rule out scenarios like in Italy in early 2020, where patients will have to be evacuated to other countries.

“Germany is already prepared to take over patients,” he added.

Additionally, Van der Auwera explained that the lack of beds is not necessarily the problem, but that there is just not enough staff.

“For over a year we have been asking staff to give the best of themselves. For more than six months, we have been asking people in intensive care to give 110%. For more than a month, we have been asking them to give 130%,” he said. “Asking even more of them is just not an option.”

Intensive care really is intensive, Van der Auwera emphasised. “Mathematically, for one bed in intensive care (day and night), you need three nurses to keep it qualitative.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times