Hospitals told to reserve a third of ICU beds for Covid patients

Belgian hospitals have been instructed to set aside a third of critical care beds for Covid patients within two weeks. Hospitals continue to see more and more Covid patients.  By next week 500 ICU beds are expected to be filled by Covid patients reaching the current limit.

Under Phase 1A+ hospitals will have to reserve 667 of Belgium’s 2,000 ICU beds for Covid patients.  In regular wards six times more beds will have to be set aside for this group. 

The Belgian authorities have called on hospitals to show solidarity and distribute Covid patients evenly across the country.  In hospitals some non-urgent medical care will be postponed e.g. operations that require post-operative ICU care as well as regular medical interventions that don’t.

Margot Cloet of the Zorgnet-Icuro hospital and care home network says that in some regions a third of ICU beds are already occupied by Covid patients e.g. in West Flanders and Brussels. 

“We will have to postpone care. The situation is serious as a result of rising numbers.  A different crisis is coming down the tracks: a shortage of staff forcing beds to be closed”. 

Many hospital staff are exhausted after several coronavirus waves or are ill or infected with Covid themselves.

Ghent University Hospital earlier indicated it didn’t support the setting aside of ICU beds for Covid patients ahead of time.  Head physician Frank Vermassen: “We always said we wanted to give Covid and non-Covid patients the best care. We anticipated more Covid patients.  We will ensure there is enough room in ICUs at the time, but not beforehand.  Of course we will show solidarity: if other hospitals experience problems we will help out.”

Dr Vermassen is convinced his hospital will have sufficient beds: “With the 4-day weekend ahead we’re looking at a few calmer days.  We will follow the evolution of the figures, but you can only use one bed once.  If Covid patients arrive and need an ICU bed, we may have to postpone regular care.”

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