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1 in 2 Belgians avoided specialist care during lockdown

Credit: Belga

One in two Belgians forewent specialist care for appointments scheduled prior to the coronavirus lockdown, a study by UCLouvain and KULeuven showed.

Of the 1,963 people who responded to the survey, 38.7% gave up dental care, 33.6% gave up paramedical care (physiotherapist, speech therapist, etc.) and 19% gave up visits to the general practitioner.

Reasons for cancelling included the closure of practices and the fear of catching the new coronavirus (Covid-19).

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One person in five cancelled several appointments and 87.5% were unable to have a medical examination (blood test, screening, medical imaging) that had been planned before the confinement.

Among the respondents, 38.7% reported having experienced a new health problem for which they did not consult, whereas they would have under normal circumstances. They preferred to wait to see if they would eventually get better or, in some cases, the doctor asked them not to come.

Regarding the impact of this situation for the future, 15.8% of respondents think that their health deteriorated “quite a lot” or “very much” from not obtaining medical care during confinement. Among those with a chronic illness, this proportion rises to 22.8%.

When asked how they would react to a new health problem, 34.8% of respondents said they would consult a doctor, but 48.9% would only do so if they considered the health problem to be severe.

The study also showed that 10.1% would only consult by telephone, and 6.2% would not consult at all.

The results show that the population fears being contaminated by going for treatment, and that people are likely to continue to avoid consultations, according to the researchers.

The survey’s respondents were “mostly active women, highly educated and in good health before confinement,” the researchers pointed out.

“If the respondents were more representative of the general population in Belgium, non-recourse to medical care and its consequences would likely be even greater,” they said.

The Brussels Times