Health Ministry against outsourcing delayed care to Germany
The over 300 hospitals in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia can help eliminate the massively long waiting lists for care in the Netherlands, Alex Friedrich, the chairman of the board of the academic hospital in Munster, said to NOS. The Ministry of Public Health is unenthusiastic about the idea of long-term and large-scale cross-border cooperation.
"It is not that simple. If you have surgery in Germany, you still have to receive aftercare in the Netherlands. It is not said that this is available," Ministry spokesperson Joeke Kootstra said to the broadcaster.
The Netherlands struggles to catch up on healthcare delayed during the coronavirus pandemic. In April, 100,000 to 120,00 patients had been waiting for surgery for months. That hasn't changed since then, according to the Dutch Healthcare Authority (NZa). And there is no quick solution in sight. Absenteeism among healthcare workers is still very high, and that is on top of structural staff shortages, the NZa said.
Germany can help, Friedrich said to the broadcaster. North Rhine-Westphalia borders the Netherlands and has about the same number of residents but many more hospitals. "Where the Netherlands has about 90 hospitals, we have 330. Here, too, patients now have to wait because of the pandemic. But that is only a few weeks, compared to months or longer in the Netherlands. If Dutch patients are planned in on a significant scale, the German patients may have to wait three to four weeks, which is acceptable for many conditions."
Friedrich thinks the Dutch government should conclude a multi-year agreement with North Rhine-Westphalia to jointly tackle the Dutch waiting lists. "Such an agreement is necessary if such a master plan is to be a success. After all, in principle, our beds are already full with our own patients. But if German hospitals can expect a large number of Dutch patients on an annual basis, we can include them in our annual planning. Because then it pays to make room."
The Dutch Ministry of Public Health is not very enthusiastic about the idea. According to spokesperson Kootstra, treatment abroad is not an appropriate option for many patients, so a large-scale plan is not a good solution. "Consider, for example, the aftercare that patients need. There must either be capacity in the Netherlands, or the patient must travel abroad for all follow-up appointments. There are also many patients who do not want to be helped abroad, for example, because of a long-term treatment relationship with a doctor in the Netherlands."
The Patient Federation has the same concerns as the Ministry but added that investigating the plan wouldn't hurt. There will undoubtedly be patients who do want to have the choice of treatment elsewhere if the waiting lists don't disappear, the federation said.