At the East Limburg Hospital (ZOL) in Genk currently a third of ICU staff is off work due to long term sick leave. The daily ‘Het Belang van Limburg’ reports that the hospital is suffering from “covid fatigue”. Now the country’s hospitals have been to set aside 25% of their ICU beds for COVID-19 patients this could well mean that operations that require after care on intensive care units may have to be postponed.
ZOL’s Jürgen Ritzen told VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’ that “33% of ICU staff is currently at home on long-term sick leave. This is the knock-on effect of working for a year and a half in protective clothing and the high mortality rate with which they have been confronted. It wears you down”.
Now the hospitals are being obliged to set aside a quarter of their ICU beds for COVID patients the pressure of work threatens to rise again. On Thursday the Chief Physician at Leuven University Hospital Gert Van Assche asked how he should explain to his staff that a region that is top of the class when it comes to vaccination like Flanders has to take on patients from regions where vaccination levels are much lower such as Brussels, Northern France, and Wallonia.
The lion’s share of COVID-19 patients that are requiring hospital treatment have not been vaccinated. The increase in hospitalisations of patients with COVID-19 threats day to day ICU provision particularly in hospital such as ZOL where a large number of staff members are off sick.