In the three units of the UCL Namur University Hospital Center (CHU), the Omicron storm is feared and threatens, but no more than elsewhere in Belgium, it is safe to say that it was preceded by a phase of “calm” . “For weeks, or months in fact, we have the feeling of preparing every day for the worst”, slips a nurse from the Mont-Godinne site, a large rectangular building that seems to have been placed in the middle of the fields, about twenty kilometers from the Walloon city.
Doctor Luc Mathy, medical director of the CHU, agrees: “We are at twenty-one months of a pandemic and a situation based on a hospital emergency plan (PHU) set up, in principle, for short-term events and which gives absolute priority to patients with Covid. “
The doctor therefore asks a question, still taboo: should this priority be maintained when the vast majority of patients hospitalized are not vaccinated and they mobilize material and human resources that can no longer be allocated to routine but necessary care? – even essential – other patients?
Doctor Mathy is cautious because he understands the importance of the debate he launched with his colleagues Benoît Rondelet, medical director of Mont-Godinne, and Sandrine Monseur, of Dinant, two other sites of the hospital center. In early December, these three specialists signed an open letter to the political and medical authorities. They underlined the danger of postponing many interventions requiring intensive care, raised their serious concern about the condition of their staff and, above all, called for a “Ethical debate”.
At this point, no official response has come. Already faced with many criticisms of the country’s state of unpreparedness, the savings made in the hospital sector in recent years or endless discussions on compulsory vaccination, the nine ministers of health (at federal, regional level and communities) do not want to decide. They stick to circulars indicating, without further clarification, that all care “Urgent and necessary” must be issued.
At the end of November, an advisory committee coordinated by the Federal Ministry of Health asked hospitals to postpone all “non-urgent” treatments for two weeks, and to reserve 60% of intensive care beds for patients with Covid-19 . “It almost amounts to reserving all the available beds for them”, objected in La Libre Belgique, on December 3, Jean-Michel Hougardy, medical director of the Erasme University Hospital, in Brussels.
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In Wallonia, doctors launch the debate on the “absolute priority” given to patients with Covid-19