Coronavirus: first postponements of interventions in Brussels due to lack of staff when transitioning to phase 1b

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In the transition to phase 1b which involves reserving half of the intensive care beds for Covid patients, interventions are already the subject of initial postponements, in particular due to a lack of specialized personnel which requires close beds, according to an inventory of the situation made on Friday in healthcare institutions in the capital. Covid hospitalizations in Brussels continue to show a slow progression since this summer, but it is currently less problematic in the region than in the rest of the country, noted Etienne Wery, managing director for the network of public hospitals Iris.

The Iris hospitals had 27 Covid patients in intensive care on Wednesday morning (33% of the available capacity) and 140 more in conventional care units. “The occupation of intensive care by Covid cases continues its slow but irrepressible increase”, comments Etienne Wery. “Excluding intensive care, the increase has also been regular and constant since this summer, but we feel an acceleration in recent days.” If in August-September last the Brussels hospitals had been more strongly impacted than in the rest of the country, it is the opposite today.

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Etienne Wery explains that the lack of personnel is felt: “The absence of some of the nursing staff (particularly affected by the Covid), the impossibility of stemming the large volume of departures (often tired of the nursing profession and of the current situation) and the great difficulty in recruiting nursing staff to compensate for these departures are still very present problems. This requires us to reduce the number of beds available, particularly in intensive care. The upsurge in the epidemic in general adds to this problem and encourages us to deprogram certain planned interventions ”.

Efforts to educate healthcare staff

Despite efforts to sensitize nursing staff to vaccination, it seems to him that “the current fringe of unvaccinated people (10 to 20% depending on the site) is becoming irreducible. Our hospital departments therefore remain in favor of compulsory vaccination of nursing staff, but call for dialogue so as not to aggravate the shortage of nursing staff ”.

At clinics in Europe, there has not yet been any postponement of care. One of the communications managers noted, however, that “after more than a year and a half of Covid, the staff is exhausted and it is felt on the ground. As a result, we have more absenteeism ”.

“On the three hospital sites of CHIREC (Delta hospital, Ste-Anne St-Rémi clinic and Braine-l’Alleud hospital), there are 45 Covid patients, including 10 patients in intensive care, and among these only one person vaccinated person who is immunocompromised. “Almost every time when you have a person vaccinated in intensive care, there is an underlying pathology or a very high age”, observes Dr. Benoît Debande, general administrative and financial director of the CHIREC hospital group. He believes that vaccine efficacy continues: “The virus is circulating, but vaccination protects against hospitalizations, and in particular against hospitalizations in intensive care. People who are immunocompromised react less strongly to the vaccine and as protection decreases over time, they fall below the protection threshold more quickly. This is why we proposed a third dose earlier to older and immunocompromised people ”.

There are currently five intensive care beds closed for lack of specialized staff out of a total of 34 across the three sites. Interventions were postponed this week.

UZ Brussel currently has 47 Covid patients, including 13 in intensive care. St-Luc University Clinics treat 31 Covid patients, nine of whom are in intensive care.

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