5,700 hospitalized Covid patients next month if partial lockdown doesn't work: Intensive care expert
If the current trend continues, and the partial lockdown imposed in the Netherlands from today doesn't have an effect, there will be 5,700 coronavirus patients in Dutch hospitals by the end of November, Ernst Kuipers of the National Network for Acute Care said in a technical briefing to parliament on Wednesday. Jaap van Dissel of public health institute RIVM is also worried about hospitalization numbers increasing, according to NOS' live blog on the briefing.
The number of coronavirus hospitalizations is currently still low compared to the first wave, but that must not lead to a false sense of security, Van Dissel said. "We shouldn't count ourselves too lucky on the current situation, where the admissions are lagging behind and the clinical picture appears milder," he said. "The question is whether we understand enough why it is different, or whether this is a harbinger of more problems."
At 5,700 expected hospitalizations by end November, this worst case scenario is much worse than the 4,500 hospitalized Covid-19 patients at the height of the first wave, Kuipers said. If that happens, regular care will have to be scaled down by 75 percent. "Then, in addition to Covid care, only acute care remains," Kuipers said.
In the most favorable scenario, the measures announced by the government on Tuesday will be effective and new infections will fall. If that happens, there will be around 3 thousand corona patients in hospital at end November and regular care will only have to be scaled down by 40 percent, Kuipers predicted.
An additional problem is the high level of absence among hospital workers, Kuipers said. "In my own hospital, Erasmus MC, we have between 30 and 50 employees test positive every day." If absenteeism increases any further, regular care will have to be scaled down more.
That could have major consequences for public health. The missed regular care from the first wave still hasn't been caught up, Karina Raaijmakers of the Dutch healthcare authority NZa said to parliament. "There has been hardly any catch-up care. There are still people who are waiting for care. That is worrisome."
According to Kuipers, hospital care cannot be expanded any further. Over the summer, some 900 extra hospital beds were added, with the 1 thousand extra employees needed to tend to these beds. "There is an end to the flexibility of hospital care. 900 extra beds that you have to staff 24 hours a day, that's major. That can't go any further, not during this period."
"The perception is that we need additional measures because healthcare was not prepared enough," Kuipers said. "But there are limits to what you can achieve." He added that this perception is resulting in increasingly hostile attitudes towards already overworked and exhausted care workers.