Waiting lists and patients refused at mental health centers due to staff shortage
Mental healthcare centers in the Netherlands have had to put patients on long waiting lists or turn them away, due to an ongoing shortage of mental health professionals at the Dutch Association of Mental Health and Addiction Care (GGZ).
Mental healthcare centers have been battling staff shortages for years, yet since the start of the coronavirus crisis, the shortage has become even more apparent. Waiting times can differ per region but can reach up to more than 15 weeks for mental health issues, such as eating disorders, autism and personality disorder, according to NOS.
“It is not acceptable that patients have to be put on a waiting list that is longer than five weeks”, a spokesperson of the Parnassia mental health group said to Omroep West. General practitioners in the area have been asked not to refer their patients to Parnassia, due to the staff shortage.
“Patients can choose for online treatment or they can choose to go to a different location in Zoetermeer or Leiden or go to a different GGZ institution”, the Parnassia spokesperson said.
Some mental healthcare centers have had to turn patients away to leave room for emergency care.
One of the largest mental health providers in the Netherlands, Arkin, has over 170 job vacancies for health care professionals, practitioners and nurses, NOS reported. In the first half of 2021, Arkin saw a nine percent increase in the number of referrals for people with anxiety, mood, or eating disorders compared to last year in the same period. In the last quarter of 2020, Medisch Contact reported a shortage of 3,282 job vacancies for mental health care professionals in the Netherlands.
Many psychiatrists said they prefer working in their own practice where they have to deal with less paperwork and do not have to put in hours in the weekend, evening and night.
Basic psychologists can be trained to work for the GGZ, yet the number of training spots has declined, due to lack of funding from the Ministry of Health. The limited funding has led to 40 percent of training spots for GGZ employees disappearing in 2021 and 56 percent for nursing home care.
The Ministry of Health told NOS they base the number of training spots on the advice from the Capacity Body. In 2022, there will be 832 training spots for GGZ psychologists.