Loud calls for general lockdown from health sector

Calls for a general lockdown of the Belgian population are sounding ever louder as Belgian hospitals struggle to cope with large numbers of coronavirus patients.  Virologist Marc Van Ranst says the latest data contains not one iota of good news.  Margot Cloet of Zorgnet Icuro, a network of hospitals and care homes, accuses Belgium’s political class of ignoring the fact that we are heading for a crash of the system, while Peter Fontaine, the director of Europa Hospitals in Brussels, questions whether the measures taken so far are sufficient to flatten the curve.

Prof Van Ranst says there isn’t a single indication that the measures taken are having any impact: “The situation in health care is critical.  Just like in neighbouring countries it’s time for the emergency break: a lockdown.”

Margot Cloet warns that hospitals will soon have to choose who they treat and who they don’t.  Phase 2b of the emergency plan kicks in in Belgian hospitals soon: 2,000 critical care beds are set aside for corona patients, but figures rising fast are leading to concerns these won’t be enough.  Broader efforts are afoot to increase this number by several hundred.

“If we wait too long before introducing a general lockdown, problems in hospitals will be so great that patients will be allowed to die or hospitals will close their doors.  There isn’t enough staff.  It’s an illusion to think we can treat everybody.”

Europa Hospitals, like all hospitals in Brussels, are under tremendous pressure.  Peter Fontaine says they are just managing to cope.

“During the first lockdown Covid patient numbers reached 85.  Today we are treating 120 Covid patients.”

“Patients can be transferred to hospitals in Flanders.  Non-urgent care is postponed.  Many staff are now working in critical care where more staff are needed per bed.  It’s going to stop somewhere.  At some point there won’t be any more staff.”

Flemish hospitals too are now urging the introduction of a general lockdown.  Following a joint meeting the hospitals called for the country to return to the measures introduced in March.  The hospitals are calling for this because they say hospital care is about implode.

Hospitals are working with the federal government to draw up a new emergency plan to increase critical care capacity.  They fear the existing capacity of 2,000 beds will not be sufficient.  The new plan should be finalised by 2 November.

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