Van Assche points to the fact that his hospital is having to treat patients dispatched from other regions where vaccination rates are lower. “The increase in the number of seriously ill could have been avoided. It has far-reaching ramifications for vaccinated fellow countrymen”.
The head physician says over a quarter of ICU beds will now be unavailable for regular care as some beds cannot be used due to staff shortages. He adds that the decision was taken without full consultation of the regions.
Van Assche challenges the fairness of a measure that also applies to regions like the greater part of Flanders that can display ‘impressive rates of vaccination’.
“The increase in the number of seriously ill Covid patients in certain regions like Brussels could have been avoided.”
The head physician says the solution is clear: obligatory vaccination for all: “Flanders is world champion when it comes to vaccination levels. We should be able to expect that the rate also picks up in the rest of the country.”
The doctor also points to the willingness among staff to accept extra patients who are not vaccinated as an issue. He explains his hospital has accepted dozens of patients from Brussels, Wallonia and the North of France, but adds that in a region with a high vaccination level this is hard to explain to staff: “I believe serious questions are starting to be asked in Flanders”.
Belgian health minister Vandenbroucke (Flemish socialist) acknowledged the problem with regard to the postponement of regular care, but challenged the vaccination rate issue saying Van Assche’s point of view was rather ‘simplistic’. He warned Flanders should not get complacent and pointed to Antwerp, where many people remain unvaccinated. He rejected the idea of mandatory vaccination as unfeasible.