Hospital backlog isn’t improving, despite Covid patient drop; Centaurus infections rising
Hospitals in the Netherlands have been unsuccessful in their attempt to catch up on healthcare that was delayed as the result of the coronavirus pandemic. While the hospitalized Covid-19 patient total has fallen by more than half since a recent peak, and newly diagnosed infections have steadily declined, another new coronavirus variant is beginning to advance in the country.
“In recent years, there have been several periods during the pandemic when there were fewer coronavirus cases,” said the Dutch Healthcare Authority (NZA). “During those periods, the NZa expected to catch up in the field of delayed care, but this has not happened.” Nationally, the number of people waiting to be treated by a hospital did not fall between June and August.
Waiting times could even rise, with hospitals scaling down plannable care in recent weeks. Only 41 percent of hospitals are currently operating at full capacity, compared to 52 percent in June. On top of that, delays in providing mental health care at GGZ facilities have also started to increase.
The organization said that waiting times vary from region to region, while sick leave rates are above average. Short-term absenteeism is on the rise, while long-term leave has remained high. With regional differences meaning there is available capacity in different regions, the NZA said that healthcare providers, insurance companies, and others in the field need to work more closely together to eliminate the backlogs.
There were 511 patients with Covid-19 in Dutch hospitals on Tuesday. That figure has fallen by 12 percent in a week. During the current wave, the hospitalized total reached a peak of 1,149 six weeks ago.
The current patient total includes 31 people in intensive care, down from 41 last Tuesday. The other 480 patients were in regular care wards, compared to 539 last week. Figures from the LCPS show that 57 patients with the disease were admitted each of the past seven days, down from 69 the previous week.
Some 7,735 people tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus during the seven-day period ending on Tuesday morning. That was the lowest weekly total since the start of June. The total was 13 percent lower compared to a week earlier, data from the RIVM showed.
The basic reproduction (R) value fell slightly from 0.88 to 0.86. That means that 100 people contagious with coronavirus on August 15 passed it on to 86 people. They then gave it to 74 others, who likely went on to infect 64 more individuals. While the figure is below 1.00, the number of weekly infections is expected to decrease.
Sewage surveillance showed that the amount of coronavirus particles in sewer water has remained roughly the same since August 8. From 15-21 August, the particle level was highest in Amsterdam-Amstelland. The few days after that showed a higher total in Limburg-Noord.
While the Omicron BA.5 sub-variant remains the most dominant in the Netherlands, the number of BA.2.75 infections may be rising. Called “Centaurus,” it is also a sub-variant of the Omicron variant. It has become the most dominant elsewhere, like in India.
“In the Netherlands, we are seeing a recent increase of this variant in germ surveillance. Whether this increase will continue will become clear in the coming weeks,” the RIVM said. It could also lead to an increase in the total number of infections, but it is too early to speculate.
“BA 2.75 seems to be able to circumvent the built-up defense against COVID-19 (by vaccination or an infection) more easily due to small, specific mutations. There are no indications that this variant is more pathogenic than the other Omicron variants.”
The RIVM said countries which border the Netherlands are also seeing an increase in Centaurus infections.