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Escaping the vicious grip of Corona

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The coronavirus has gripped the entire world. The impact of corona is enormous, in our society and in the healthcare sector. Regular care delivery decreased with the same speed at which the number of ICU beds increased. In the Netherlands, almost half of the regular care was postponed or canceled to free up capacity for COVID patients and to prevent infections. This affected hundreds of thousands of patients in the last two months. Roughly 75,000 of them would normally receive care that cannot be postponed for longer than two weeks according to our estimation. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking, the backlog of care is increasing, and the end does not seem to be near. After all, it is not easy to organize care while keeping a 1,5m distance. The healthcare sector will continue to have insufficient capacity for the upcoming months.

Who are these regular patients that currently do not receive their regular care? The majority are patients with cardiovascular diseases. Think of people with chest pain, heart failure, or arrhythmia. As it currently stands, a total of 150,000 to 200,000 cardiac patients will not receive their required care this year. This is partly due to a shortage of capacity in the hospitals, but maybe more so because patients are hesitant to visit clinics and hospitals and will not show up to present their symptoms to a physician. This will be fatal for a group of these patients.

We estimate that canceling or postponing cardiac care will result in an additional 65,000 to 100,000 years of life lost, plus another 20,000 to 50,000 years of life with increased disability. And that is just for cardiac patients. Postponing care will also affect oncology patients and many others. For comparison: due to the coronavirus about 65,000 years of life have been lost in the Netherlands thus far.

It would be a utopia to think that it is possible to make up for all this care. However, to provide patients with their required care and to prevent further deterioration and years of life lost, it is essential to create a new normal as soon as possible. This requires a radical reform of the healthcare sector. Hospital care, such as out-patient consultations and diagnostics, will take place at home wherever possible. The remaining scarce hospital capacity must be optimally utilized. Moreover, flexible capacity for COVID care is indispensable in order to avoid another disruption of regular care delivery if the virus flares up. And finally, it is essential to actively provide patients with access to care. This requires commitment from the entire care continuum. Patients must trust that care delivery is safe.

Download the full report 'Uit de wurggreep van corona' (in Dutch) here »

In the media

Geen zorg voor 150.000 hartpatiënten

Lees hier een artikel de NRC over deze studie

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