"Forget it," acute care expert says about Covid herd immunity
Having many Covid-19 patients receiving hospital care may be a permanent situation, according to Ernst Kuipers, head of acute care network LNAZ and chairman of the board at Rotterdam MC. Healthcare will have to be organized differently because hospitals can't keep postponing regular care, Kuipers said in an interview with AD. "People have been waiting too long, which also leads to health damage."
"The suggestion has been made of herd immunity. Forget it!" Kuipers said to the newspaper. "The vaccines really do something. It would have been much worse without vaccinations. The majority of patients are still unvaccinated. They shouldn't have been there." But even if everyone got vaccinated, people with underlying conditions like cardiovascular disease are still at risk of needing hospital care if they get Covid-19.
"We are now working with several scenarios. One is: there will always be large numbers of corona patients. With substantial numbers of patients, we really need to organize care differently in the long term."
Scaling up hospital capacity to accommodate all the Covid-19 and regular care patients is easier said than done. Because it's not about getting enough beds and sheets and ventilators, Kuipers said. It is about the staff. The Netherlands' healthcare sector is facing a staff shortage. And training more ICU nurses takes years, even if you can convince more people to pick up the profession.
The caretaker Cabinet is expected to announce a short lockdown on Friday to stop the rising number of infections. Kuipers agrees it is time for measures because only if the number of infections falls will there be enough room in the hospitals.
A more hopeful scenario is that once people have had Covid a number of times or received their booster shops, this will have a "damping effect" on hospitalizations, Kuipers said. "But one thing is certain: corona will not go away. That is the reality."