‘Ministry of Health and Science was bothering expansion of ICs’ during pandemic

The Ministry of Health has discouraged hospitals in the midst of the corona crisis from expanding their intensive care unit with extra beds, reports NRC based on its own research. Some hospitals would even have been advised to โ€œdeleteโ€ beds.

The main points of contention between the ministry and the hospitals were the reimbursement for the ICU beds and the conditions under which the additional capacity had to be arranged.

After the first wave, in June 2020, the sector made a plan to increase the number of IC beds. VWS released half a billion euros and per hospital it was agreed how many beds would be added in the ward. The total number would grow incrementally from 1000 to 1700 beds.

Fixed on numbers

According to NRC, a reconstruction shows that the Hague officials then fixed themselves on the agreed numbers in such a way that hospitals that wanted to expand more in the following months were not financially supported in this. For example, the ministry would have rejected compensation for two hospitals in Amsterdam that had to expand their ICU in December 2020 due to the influx of patients.

The ministry is said to have tied at least one in five hospitals over ICU beds. At least four were advised to โ€œdeleteโ€ beds in December 2020, while the National Coordination Center for Patient Spreading recommended expanding the number of beds at that time. Six hospitals hired a lawyer and prepared summary proceedings to enforce compensation.

Prevent increase number of beds

According to NRC, internal notes show that the department was aware that the discussion about money could jeopardize the IC expansion. Nevertheless, because of the finances, at one point โ€œmaximum effort was made to prevent an increase in the number of bedsโ€, officials wrote to the minister.

NRC writes that the ministry was asked for a response last month, but the department was unable to answer the questions, โ€œif they can be found out at all,โ€ a spokesman said.