National coordination center to manage available ICU beds in NL

Screen showing an elderly patient's vitals in hospital
Screen showing an elderly patient's vitals in hospitalPhoto: AirUbon/DepositPhotos

The Erasmus MC in Rotterdam is setting up a national coordination center for patient distribution and bed capacity in an empty lecture hall. The center will coordinate how many intensive care unit beds are available where for coronavirus patients. If a hospital is full, patients who can be transferred will be, Ernst Kuipers, board chairman of Erasmus MC and chairman of the National Network for Intensive Care, said to NOS.

According to Kuipers, there are still enough beds in the Netherlands' ICUs to cope, but for how long is unclear. "It is very crowded in Brabant now, but it will be busy all over the country in the coming week." The Netherlands association of intensive care workers said Sunday that there were already 405 patients being treated in intensive care, and warned that the country may have to manage between 500 and 1,000 Covid-19 patients in ICU this week.

Hospitals in Noord-Brabant already became overloaded last week. Over the weekend, more than a hundred coronavirus patients were therefore transferred to hospitals elsewhere in the country. Most of them were taken to the north of the country, where hospitals were still relatively quiet, according to NOS. 

The network is also looking for locations all over the country to accommodate patients. MC Slotervaart, an Amsterdam hospital that was closed after being declared bankrupt in 2018, is one of the locations looked at. "It is an advantage that it is already an existing building. But we also have to consider where there are people available. Is there enough equipment and are there good supply lines for medication or infusion fluid?"

The Netherlands normally has 1,150 ICU beds, roughly 6.61 per 100,000 residents, of which half are normally used in emergencies, and 225 are used for elective care, including scheduled surgeries. Hospitals have suspended planned care to free up as many beds as possible, while Health Minister Hugo de Jonge says another 350 ICU space are able to be quickly made available.

In a letter to parliament on Friday, De Jonge said his team is purchasing and sourcing available ventilators and working on a staffing solution to further boost the country’s ICU capacity to 2,000, or 11.49 beds per 100,000 residents. That figure would still lag behind Italy, which in 2012 had 12.5 ICU beds per capita and has been overwhelmed by 54,000 coronavirus cases and the deaths of 4,825 patients.

On Saturday there were 354 people being treated in intensive care units across the Netherlands