Delayed care in Covid cost at least 320,000 years of life: RIVM
The many operations and treatments delayed or canceled in the coronavirus pandemic resulted in affected patients losing approximately 320,000 “life years in good health.” Had it not been for the pandemic, these people would have lived longer and had a healthier final stage of life, the RIVM said.
According to the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), the chance that this can still be repaired is small.
Researchers at the institute looked at only part of the healthcare system. They studied the surgeries that can be scheduled, like operations on hips and knees and cataract procedures. These often did not occur in 2020 and 2021 because the hospital space was needed for coronavirus patients. Usually, there are about 1.6 million such procedures over two years. In the pandemic, there were about 305,000 fewer.
The RIVM emphasized that this is a minimum estimate. “The full health losses are probably greater because we did not include all forms of care. Think of the consequences of delayed diagnoses and care in outpatient clinics.”
The damage to health could be limited if hospitals perform 5 percent more surgeries for a few weeks every year until the end of 2026. In that case, the damage could be reduced by 19,000 life years. “Whether this is achievable not only depends on sufficient healthcare personnel. What also plays a role is whether people (want to) qualify for an operation. It is certain that not all postponed operations can be made up,” the RIVM said.
According to the health institute, the figures show that it is essential to continue regular care as well as possible during a crisis. Private clinics and foreign hospitals, for example, could take over treatments. “Another possibility is to make the best use of the operating capacity for operations that provide a lot of health,” the RIVM said.
Reporting by ANP