Pressure on healthcare system decreasing, but still high: Dutch Health Authority
The pressure on regular hospital care as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is slowly decreasing but remains high, the Dutch healthcare authority (NZa) stated in their weekly report. Critically important plannable care such as cancer treatments could not be fully provided in 25 hospitals last week, down from 26 mentioned in the last report.
Ten of these hospitals were not able to provide certain forms of this care within the required six-week window, meaning that other institutions needed to take over their patients. Additionally, only 66% of operating rooms are still in use, compared to 64% last week.
Plannable care, such as the knee, hip or cataract surgeries, is now provided in 71% of hospitals, up from 66 percent. Just like last week, only 2% of hospitals can provide care fully and according to plan.
The estimated number of missed referrals to specialist medical care has risen to nearly 1.46 million since March 2020. Last week, the number of referrals was 5% lower compared to the pre-pandemic level. However, more COVID-related care was delivered, to just below the level of the previous peaks in late October and late December. Despite this increase, less than 1% of hospital patients are still COVID patients.
The number of medical referrals for suspected cancer dropped again to close to the 2019 level. However, the number of tumors detected between January and April 2021 is 3% higher than expected without the pandemic. NZa explained that missed diagnoses may now be catching up after an increase in the number of referrals recorded in mid-March.
In week 20, there were approximately 9,300 referrals for mental health care, considerably higher than the number of referrals in the week before. According to Nza, that was likely a result of that week having only 4 working days due to a public holiday.
Nationally, the number of treatments with an excessively long waiting time is decreasing slightly. The number of patients facing waiting time which is above the standard for outpatient clinics and diagnostics appears stable, NZa concluded.