Longer surgery waiting lists due to hospital staff shortages: report

The number of medical vacancies at Dutch hospitals doubled over the past year, resulting in longer waiting lists for surgeries, broadcaster NOS reports based on its own research into staff shortages at hospitals in the Netherlands.

The broadcaster surveyed 90 hospitals, 63 of which responded to its questions. These 63 hospitals together currently have over 2,200 unfilled vacancies for doctors, nurses and medical support staff. Almost all of them said that the staff shortages make it very difficult for them to fulfill all their duties. Half said that they postponed scheduled surgeries over the past year due to staff shortages. 

The largest staff shortages are in hospitals' emergency departments - emergency rooms, intensive care units and operating rooms. 

"With a 5 percent staff shortage, there is 5 percent less OR time available. That does not lead to cancellations with us, but does have consequences for the waiting lists", AMC in Amsterdam said to NOS. The OLVG in Amsterdam temporarily reduced operation capacity by 10 percent to 15 percent last year, due to a lack of staff. The hospital also noticed an increase in waiting times for planned surgeries. UMC Utrecht told NOS that all planned surgeries were carried out, "but surgeons are give less operating time than if we had more staff. Because there must be enough nursing staff."

The staff shortages don't only have consequences for patients, but also for hospital employees. High workloads lead to absenteeism and to the departure of permanent employees, making the staff shortage problem even bigger. "We ask a lot of our employees", UMC Groningen said to the broadcaster. "Thanks to their extra efforts, it is possible for us to continue to provide almost all care. Where possible, tasks are sometimes distributed differently to ease the burden, but in many cases this does not provide a structural solution to staff shortages."