AMSTERDAM: Some Dutch hospitals have halted chemotherapy treatments and organ transplants to free up intensive care beds for a surging number of COVID-19 patients, an official said on Thursday (Nov 25).
The Dutch Hospital Association for Critical Care said it had asked Health Minister Hugo de Jonge to escalate the national COVID-19 plan to a stage under which regular care requiring an overnight stay would be cancelled.
The number of coronavirus patients in hospital has hit levels not seen since early May, and experts have warned that hospitals will reach full capacity in little more than a week if the virus is not contained. Several COVID-19 patients were transferred to German hospitals this week.
Responding to record high infection rates, the government's leading Outbreak Management Team convened an emergency meeting on Wednesday night and new lockdown measures are expected to be announced on Friday.
Although some 85 per cent of the adult Dutch population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, new cases hit a record high of 23,709 in 24 hours on Wednesday and are up almost 40 per cent on a weekly basis.
"There are hospitals in several regions scaling back care," a spokesperson for the hospital association said. "We are talking about care that requires a bed. That means a lot of appointments are being cancelled."
Under the next phase of the crisis response plan, hospitals could also request the assistance of military personnel and students to help nurse patients.
The Netherlands has recorded more than 2.5 million cases and over 19,000 deaths since the pandemic started.
After ending most social distancing measures in late September, the Dutch government this month reintroduced mask-wearing and re-imposed a partial lockdown, with bars and restaurants closing at 8pm.
Plans to restrict access to many public places to people who have been vaccinated or have recently recovered from COVID-19 prompted three nights of rioting from last Friday and more than 170 people were arrested across the country.