Herstal A&E reopens after threat of legal sanctions

Herstal A&E reopens after threat of legal sanctions
© Belga

The emergency department of the André Renard hospital in Herstal in Liege re-opened this morning after closing on Thursday, citing staff fatigue caused by shortages thanks to the pandemic.

The decision to reopen came after a stern letter from federal health minister Frank Vandenbroucke.

“Every time the hospital refuses to admit a patient who is forwarded to them via [emergency number] 112, the inspector of the public health ministry will draw up an official report for violations of the law of 1964 on emergency medical care, and that report can be handed over to the public prosecutor and the hospital,” he wrote.

The department closed on Thursday afternoon, and had originally intended to accept only the most severe cases until Monday, when it would reopen as usual. But then it received a letter from the health inspection service ordering it to open the department immediately or face fines or even prison sentences for senior staff and the hospital itself.

“Even though we reopen the emergency room, we are out of staff,” a spokesperson said. “We’re going to another way of working. We will compensate for the reopening of the emergency room by closing beds and care units, where other patients no longer receive the appropriate care.”

By imposing the reopening of the department, they said, the problem simply shifts.

“The entire hospital staff has been making the greatest effort in the fight against Covid-19 for two years now,” the hospital said. “We have exhausted all resources that will enable us to perform our duties as a general hospital and we have reached the limit of what is humanly possible.”

“We are aware that this will not solve anything in the long term. Without an upgrade of the nursing profession, the situation will worsen in the coming months, so structural measures are required.”


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