At least two Rotterdam hospitals have had to close the emergency department for a number of hours since the beginning of October, because all available beds were full. Several hospitals confirm this after Ernst Kuipers, chairman of the Board of Directors of Erasmus MC and chairman of the National Network Acute Care, raised this problem during a briefing to the House of Representatives. One of those hospitals is the Maasstad Hospital, where the emergency department had to temporarily close four times this month.
Kuipers said during the briefing that emergency departments of hospitals in Rotterdam, Amsterdam and The Hague sometimes had to close last week. “Because the hospitals were full, the emergency departments were full and ambulances were packed right outside,” he explained.
Kuipers said that in a few cases the closure lasted all night. “At times it involved different emergency departments in the same city, which were closed at the same time. If an ambulance cannot dispose of its patient, you have no choice.”
This was not the case in Rotterdam. The spokesperson for the Regional Consultation Acute Care (ROAZ) says that two ERs in the region had to close for a few hours. One of these is the emergency department of the Maasstad Hospital. Which other hospital had to close has not yet been announced.
According to a spokesperson for Maasstad Hospital, it has happened four times since last week that the emergency department was temporarily closed due to a shortage of beds. The emergency room was closed for one to three hours at those times. “That time was used to provide bed capacity, through acquisitions and transfers.” Ambulances did not stop at Maasstad then. It is not known how many ambulances are involved.
The Rotterdam-Rijnmond Safety Region also has no concrete figures on the number of ambulances that had to go to other hospitals in recent weeks than originally intended. “Patient distribution always takes place; we always look where the place is,” the spokesperson explains. The emergency room has seen the patient flow increase in the past two weeks. “It has not been the case that ambulances have nowhere to go anywhere in the region. The pressure is increasing more and more.
Maasstad Hospital naturally hopes that the emergency department will not have to close again. But this is expected to become more common, given the still increasing number of people with corona in the region.
“As a hospital, we do everything we can to prevent this, but if we no longer have beds with staff because it is full, then this is an extreme emergency measure,” says Godijn. “Transferring patients to other hospitals or to the Aafje corona center helps and we are already doing that.”
Kuipers raised another problem during the briefing: the high level of absenteeism among hospital staff. According to him, between thirty and fifty employees are tested positive every day at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam. If that continues to increase, regular care must be further curtailed.
“If the increase among nurses is ten percent, you also have to give up ten percent of your beds.” For the time being, according to him, there are few indications that staff members have mutually infected each other or that an infection has passed from a patient to an employee or vice versa.
A week and a half ago, Erasmus MC said it was ready for a second corona wave. An extra temporary Intensive Care unit has been set up to relieve the pressure on the ICs during a second wave. Robin Peeters, head of Internal Medicine, said at the time that regular care at Erasmus MC does not suffer from the second wave of corona patients.
Kuipers announced on Wednesday that all hospitals in the region are scaling down regular care in order to keep care as accessible as possible during the second corona wave.
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