Waiting lists still increasing at hospitals, clinics

Waiting lists for specialist treatments at hospitals and clinics in the Netherlands are still on the rise. The average waiting times for most specialties were considerably higher last year than four years ago, and in almost all cases exceeded the applicable standards, the Telegraaf reports based on recent figures from Mediquest.

Patients who need to see an ophthalmologist or a stomach, intestinal and liver doctor waited for more than seven weeks for a first appointment last year. In 2015, the waiting times were over five weeks. Waiting times for other types of specialist care also increased. To see a doctor in the Rheumatology department, patients waited an average of 6.7 weeks, for dental surgery the waiting time was over 5 weeks on average.

For a large part of healthcare, the maximum acceptable waiting time for a first appointment is four weeks.

"I am shocked by these figures," Dianda Veldman, director of Patients' Federation Netherlands, said to the newspaper. According to her, there are various causes behind the increasing waiting lists. "But the increasing staff shortage in healthcare is the most important."

Hospitals' association NVZ recognizes the problem. "We have agreed in sector agreements to tackle waiting times, but at the same time the demand for care is rising and the staff shortage is dire," a spokesperson said to the Telegraaf. 

There is no quick solution to the staff shortages in healthcare. The profession must be made more attractive so that more people want to become healthcare specialists. But training a specialist can easily take 10 years or longer. Health economist Wim Groot therefor suggests recruiting from abroad. "In Belgium and Germany, they earn less than here," he said to the newspaper. He added that the weeks' long waiting times are also not too bad. "You sometimes waited six months in the late 1990s."