Coronavirus the "new normal", more attention needed for 'regular' healthcare: LCPS chair

Erasmus Medical Center and University in Rotterdam
Erasmus Medical Center and University in Rotterdamfrans_blok_3developDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

The coronavirus will be in the Netherlands for a long time yet, which means that hospitals and GPs have to resume other care, Ernst Kuipers, chairman of the national coordination center for patient distribution LCPS and of the board of Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, said to Nieuwsuur. "This is the new normal. The Covid epidemic is far from over .We need to prepare to receive other patients in full again," he said.

According to Kuipers, the Covid-19 outbreak has taken 'regular' healthcare hostage. "General practices pay a lot of attention to Covid-19, which makes regular patient care less possible. The same applies in hospitals, for example during office hours," he said. "Some care can wait a long time, although it may be annoying. But there are also many conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, oncological surgery or chemo therapy for cancer, where that is not possible. You may be able to postpone those treatments for one or two weeks, but after that you get a worsening of the disease and need more intensive treatments."

The fact that a lot of the ordinary healthcare is not happening, is not only because care providers have their hands full with the coronavirus epidemic. "Demand has also fallen sharply, strangely enough," Kuipers said. Emergency rooms throughout the Netherlands previously also noted that it has seen a sharp decrease in its regular visitors like appendicitis patients or people with chest pains. "It may be that patients are afraid of being infected with corona in the hospital. The chance is extremely small, hospitals have taken very adequate measures against this."

People may also think that hospitals and doctors have no room for treatments other than Covid-19 cases. "That is not the case. At the moment we actually have sufficient capacity in almost all hospitals to care for other patients. Hence the appeal to pick up this care again in general practices as well as in hospitals," he said. The Dutch Healthcare Authority, the LCPS, and the Federation of Medical Specialists are currently looking into which non-corona treatments can be resumed where and when.

While hospitals can handle some non-corona treatments, it doesn't mean that quiet has returned, Kuipers said. "The increase in the number of occupied ICU beds is leveling off, but we are still running at more than 160 percent of normal capacity. It is continuous improvisation," he said. Before all regular care can be resumed, the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care has to drop from the current around 1,400 to below a thousand, he said.