Normally Dutch ICUs only have room for 100 Covid patients
If Dutch hospitals go back to pre-pandemic situations, and no longer scale down regular care, there will only be about 100 intensive care beds available for coronavirus patients, Diederik Gommers, ICU doctor and head of intensive care association NVIC, said to NU.nl. If more Covid-19 patients need intensive care, regular care will have to be scaled down.
In January 2020, shortly before the pandemic hit the Netherlands, the country had 950 ICU beds. In 2019, an average of 665 ICU beds were occupied by patients. Another 188 beds were designated BOSS beds - Beds Open for Safety and Support. These beds must be kept open for patients who need emergency intensive care, for example after a resuscitation or car accident. That left just about 100 beds free on which coronavirus patients can be cared for, Gommers explained.
On Wednesday, public health institute RIVM reported that there were 210 coronavirus patients in ICU in Dutch hospitals. Which means that the pressure on hospitals is still high and regular care is still scaled down.
There are not enough ICU staff to increase the number of beds structurally. Now if more beds are needed, staff from other departments are used to fill gaps. Or one ICU nurse is made responsible for more patients than normal. But these are not structural solutions, Gommers said. The hospitals are working on training more ICU staff, and more young people are showing interest in the profession. But this intensive training takes time. "Before we can have those people at our disposal, we are five to six years later," Gommers said.
It is impossible to say how many extra ICU beds will be needed when all coronavirus measures are relaxed. "We never know exactly whether something is really going to happen. In June we also thought we could let it go, but it went wrong. Then you take new measures and you make sure you get back in control," Gommers said to the newspaper. But eventually, all measures will have to be scrapped, he added. "You have to do it in phases, but we can't keep a country locked up permanently."