Covid is here to stay so more ICU beds are structurally needed , doctors say
The coronavirus will not disappear completely and will continue to put extra pressure on the intensive care units in Dutch hospitals. The number of ICU beds therefore needs to be structurally increased, the ICU heads and administrators of six large hospitals - including Diederik Gommers of intensive care association NVIC - said to newspaper Trouw.
According to Gommers, there needs to be a large and national recovery plan for the intensive care units. ICU nurses and doctors have been under extreme amounts of pressure for a year and a half and that seems unlikely to change in the coming period. The number of coronavirus patients in ICU is currently much higher than it was this time last year.
Pandemic-wise, the Netherlands survived the summer of 2020 mostly unscathed. At the end of August, Dutch hospitals had only 13 coronavirus patients in intensive care wards. That number skyrocketed as autumn started.
Currently there are about 200 coronavirus patients in Dutch ICUs - a number that has been relatively stable for some time. This number is manageable, but in the long term it puts too much pressure on intensive care units and the people working in them, the ICU heads and administrators said.
Dutch ICUs are equipped to treat roughly 100 Covid-19 patients on top of regular-care patients. If something happens, such as a flu epidemic, there will be acute problems, Gommers said. During the 2017/2018 flu wave, there were 350 extra patients in ICU.
Gommers and others have been calling for ICU capacity to be increased for some time. But caretaker Health Minister Hugo de Jonge recently pointed out that this is not as easily done as said. A main problem is a shortage in ICU nurses, which preceded the pandemic and increased during it. Training for intensive care nurses takes years, so even if the interest in this profession was very high, the shortage will not disappear quickly.