Many hospitals and residential care centres phasing out care provision due to structural staff shortages

A new survey by Flanders’ largest healthcare umbrella group Zorgnet-Icuro shows that 80% of Flemish hospitals have already been forced to reduce care provision due to structural staff shortages or are considering doing so in the near future. Zorgnet-Icuro’s Margot Cloet told VRT News that "This survey shows how pressing the problem is in healthcare".

During the past few weeks, Zorgnet-Icuro has conducted a survey of Flemish hospitals and residential care centres. More than three quarters of all Flemish hospitals took part in the survey. 184 residential care facilities in our region took part. The results make alarming reading.

80% of hospitals said that they are already phasing out certain activities or will do so in the near future. More 80% said that they will close beds. Geriatric, rehabilitation, intensive care and surgery services wards are worst affected.

Structural staff shortages are blamed. More than two years of the corona crisis and shortages on the labour market are taking their toll on the healthcare sector. 

Margot Cloet of Zorgnet-Icuro told VRT News that Urgent action is needed.

In half of the hospitals surveyed temps and agency staff are currently being deployed to fill the most urgent vacancies. "Agency staff are employees that work on a temporary basis, but for a longer period of time. They are much more expensive than normal temping agency nurses. This doesn’t provide a long-term solution."

This survey shows how pressing the issue is. 

"Unfortunately, it is not simply 'solvable'. Every sector in Flanders is crying out for more staff. Just working on the image and attractiveness of the profession will be insufficient. We must therefore take broader and more structural measures."

"For example, we need to increase the number of hours that students are allowed to work. Those that have retired but still want to contribute should be able to do so flexibly, without being penalised by the Exchequer”.

Residential care centres

The issue is also acute at the region’s residential care centres. Just under 10% of the residential care centres surveyed are no longer taking on new residents or are considering closing a section due to staff shortages. Some residential care centres with expansion plans have put them on hold because they do not think that they have enough staff.

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