Clear regional differences have been found in the mortality rates of coronavirus patients who were hospitalised or in intensive care units in Belgium, as this figure is higher in the French-speaking areas than in Flanders.
When it comes to hospitalised patients in Wallonia, the mortality rate (20.4%) is a quarter higher than in the Dutch-speaking region (16.5%), whilst for intensive care patients, the percentage is a third higher both in Wallonia (40.9%) and Brussels (39.6%) in comparison with Flanders (30.6%).
The exact figures on what percentage of people hospitalised and in ICU died per region were never previously published until the figures from Sciensano from March 2020 to 15 June 2021 were requested by two Flemish members of the right-wing N-VA party Lorin Parys and Frieda Gijbels.
Parys is now calling for an independent investigation to be launched.
Both the public health institute Sciensano and the FPS Public Health were reluctant to make the mortality figures from the hospitals public, mainly out of concern that wrong conclusions would be drawn from them.
“We really want to avoid looking at how many coronavirus patients died per hospital because it does not necessarily say anything about the care provided by the hospital itself. Making a comparison is extremely difficult because so many factors come into play,” Marcel Van der Auwera of the FPS Public Health.
Although Parys also recognised that these figures should be analysed with a certain caution, he argued that “the differences between the regions and hospitals are too big to just sweep under the carpet, and that only through an independent investigation can we draw the right lessons from this health crisis and know whether every patient has ended up in the right bed.”
The figures that have now been made available show the mortality rates anonymously per province rather than per hospital.
Van der Auwera stressed that even per hospital, there can be clear differences, as the mortality rate often depends on the profile of the people who end up in one hospital, “which is often very different from that in another.”
Geert Meyfroidt, an intensivist at KU Leuven and president of the Belgian Society for Intensive Medicine, also agreed that there are big differences between hospitals, however, he said he agreed that there should be a thorough investigation into why this is the case.
“Not to point the finger at people or hospitals, but to learn from it,” he added.