ICU capacity simply can't be scaled up further, Gommers says
The Dutch intensive care units simply cannot grant the request of caretaker Health Minister Hugo de Jonge to scale up to more than the current maximum of 1,350 ICU beds in the coming winter. That said Diederik Gommers, chairman of the Dutch Association of Intensive Care (NVIC), in podcast Virusfeiten (EO).
Several media reported that the Ministry of Health recently asked intensive care units to consider whether it is possible to increase capacity again if the flow of patients continues to grow. "We don't have those nurses. People are simply worn out," Gommers responded.
The NVIC and the professional association V&VN IC previously stated that 1,350 beds are the maximum ICUs can expand to. The intensive care units currently have 950 beds, Gommers said.
Due to the pressure on hospitals, the National Coordination Center for Patient Distribution (LCPS) decided to start coordinating the distribution of coronavirus patients across the country again as of Wednesday. By relieving the burden on the regions with the most coronavirus patients, the LCPS hopes to keep healthcare accessible everywhere. The ICUs are currently treating 165 seriously ill people with Covid-19. There are now a total of 650 coronavirus patients in Dutch hospitals.
According to Gommers, regular hospital surgeries restarted after the summer but are often postponed again. "You need ICU beds for surgeries. We now have a few Covid patients in the ICU, and then you go in the morning to see if an operation can go ahead. It is always looking for a bed."
The ICU doctor, who is also a member of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT), stated that hospitals are "moaning and creaking" and that the question from The Hague caused little enthusiasm. "There are many emotions among nurses and doctors," said Gommers. "Choices just have to be made now. Which patient comes first? We will really be faced with ethical dilemmas this winter."
At the height of the first coronavirus wave in April last year, more than 1,500 people were in intensive care units. These were almost exclusively coronavirus patients. Regular care was at an almost complete standstill. During the second, third, and fourth wave, hospitals tried to continue regular care as much as possible.
Reporting by ANP.