Emergency doctors sound the alarm

Belgian A&Es (accident and emergency departments) are being inundated since new measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 came into force.  Emergency care doctor Ignace Demeyer of the OLV Hospital in Aalst says some patients are behaving in a particularly aggressive manner.  Belgian health minister De Block has suspended all non-urgent medical interventions and consultations.

Dr Jan Stroobants, the president of the Belgian Association of Emergency Care Doctors and head of A&E at the ZNA Middelheim hospital in Antwerp, says labs can’t keep up: “I don’t know how we will manage this in coming weeks.”

“Every patient who arrives at the A&E with breathing difficulties needs to be tested and will remain in isolation until we have the results, but that can take 18 hours. Until then patients are treated as positive.  This ‘purgatory stage’ takes far too long.  We are reorganising departments.”

Dr Stroobants also asks the government for greater support in providing protective equipment: mouth masks, aprons and masks for patients who are on ventilators.

Dr Ignace Demeyer, head of emergency care at the OLV Hospital in Aalst complains of the theft of mouth masks from the hospital.  Whole boxes are disappearing: “This is taking on unbelievable proportions.”

Some patients are also behaving aggressively.   Dr Ignace Demeyer: “They virtually force us to proceed with a test.  There is verbal and sometimes even physical violence.  We are asking people who are not seriously ill not to come to A&E but to contact their GP (family doctor) first.”

Health minister De Block has defended her decision to suspend all non-urgent hospital operations, tests and appointments.  The measure is needed to lighten the load on Belgian hospital against the backdrop of the corona emergency.

“In this way hospitals retain capacity to treat patients with COVID-19 and provide the best possible care at all times.”

Virtually all hospitals are today treating COVID-19 patients.

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