A striking majority of Belgian hospital chiefs want the federal government to take control of public health and break with the current sharing of powers and the need for nine health ministers.
A poll of 62 hospitals showed that close to all of their directors-general, or 86%, wanted to health care to be re-federalised.
They also overwhelmingly (98%) rejected the presence of nine health ministries for the country of 11 million, which emerged after a series of several state reforms divided power between the regional, federal and community language levels.
By contrast, 14% of respondents to the survey, conducted for Le Vif in September, said public health care should be regionalised further.
The survey showed that heads of Francophone hospitals leaned more significantly towards federalisation (90%) while, among Dutch-speaking establishments, around one in five plead for more regionalisation.
The hospital chiefs said that the coronavirus crisis had brought non-urgent procedures and consultations to a grinding halt, a decision which heavily impacted their functioning and the quality of care provided.
The sudden stoppage of non-urgent care, required to divert staff and resources to the influx of coronavirus patients, mainly impacted the cardiology (68%), oncology (57% and neurological services (50%), the poll showed.
“We had to stop all non-urgent activity from one day to the other,” Julien Compère, CEO of CHU Liège university hospital, said. “In one weekend we had to cancel 100,000 consultations out of 800,000 programmed over the year.”
More than 8 in 10 hospitals said they believed there will be an increase in illnesses not related to the coronavirus due to the postponement of care the crisis required as a stop-gap solution.
For a majority of hospitals in the survey, the chief challenge was a lack of medical staff. While they were able to find solutions for a lack of medical equipment, understaffing was their main problem.
As a result of the crisis, 6% of hospitals said their annual revenues plummeted by at least 40%, while one-sixth and one-fourth said they had lost “between 30% to 40%” and “around 25%”, respectively.”
Only 2% of hospitals said they had managed to come out unscathed from the crisis brought on by the pandemic.