What lessons can be learned from past years and what can hospitals and authorities do now? These are the questions addressed by the “structural approach to COVID” working group, a new working group launched by the umbrella health organization Zorgnet-Icuro.
The expert panel includes directors and chief physicians of Flemish hospitals. Several experts who have experienced the corona crisis first-hand, including intensivist Geert Meyfroidt and UZ Brussel managing director Marc Noppen, have given initial impetus to a number of recommendations.
A first delicate point is the planning of the capacity of hospital beds. Maintaining free beds is not justifiable, according to the study group. This prevents the hospital from using its capacities optimally. “Empty beds are of no use to anyone,” it read. A better alternative would be agreements on the rapid availability of places (within 24 hours).
This can be done with good real-time data and reliable forecasting models, “a sine qua non for managing a crisis”, says the task force. High-quality and efficient data collection is therefore an essential pillar for the future. Furthermore, it is important that this information is shared transparently, so that the policy can really focus on this point.
But personnel policy also deserves greater attention. Before the crisis, the shortage of personnel already weighed heavily on the healthcare sector, but in the future, too, healthcare needs will increase and available personnel will become scarce. The study group therefore advises hospitals to conclude agreements as of now concerning, for example, the reassignment of staff. The government, for its part, has the task of strengthening the supply of nursing care and guaranteeing a higher “patient/nurse ratio”, for example by investing in the attractiveness of the care professions.