Europe's hospitals pushed to the limit

Covid infection rates are rising again and highlighting the lack of intensive care beds and nursing staff in many European countries. Commentators are unanimous: beyond the pandemic, healthcare systems are suffering from structural problems that call for urgent measures.

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Les Echos (FR) /

A consequence of poor policies

This shortage is not by chance, writes Les Echos:

“Hospitals are now paying the price for a policy of harsh austerity measures, a chronic lack of investment and the absence of ambitious organisational reforms. ... There has been much talk of allowing more private medical care, but without concrete results. Administrative hurdles have not been lifted and nothing has been done about the poor career prospects. The fact that so many nurses in hospitals are only short-term employees - at considerable cost to the institutions - shows how much has failed here. ”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Time to loosen the purse strings

Faced with surge in coronavirus cases, hospitals in the Netherlands are once again stretched to their limits. It's time to bring back the nursing staff who have left, NRC Handelsblad demands:

“They left exhausted, demotivated, or they simply retired. On top of that, in some wards 10 to 15 percent have fallen sick. And even before the pandemic there were shortages. ... If the government really wants 1,350 intensive care beds to be available in the winter months [compared to 1,150 before the pandemic], it will have to loosen the purse strings. ... Bring back the nurses. Get down on your knees if necessary. Pay substantial bonuses for a limited period of time to make working more attractive: a few thousand euros per person. Shower them with additional benefits and attention. We need them that badly.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

More intensive care means more staff

For Helsingin Sanomat, too, the way forward is clear:

“There will be many patients in the hospitals this winter, and probably in the following ones too. The conclusion is that treatment capacities must be increased. ... So far the Covid situation has been dealt with by postponing operations, transferring patients and pushing staff to the limit. It is unacceptable that nursing staff are overworked and the treatment backlog is increasing year after year. The shortage of nurses is the biggest obstacle to boosting the number of intensive care units. We must find a remedy for this.”

Dziennik Gazeta Prawna (PL) /

Covid was the last straw

Dziennik Gazeta Prawna sheds light on the Polish health system:

“On the one hand there's resentment, fatigue, difficult conditions and poor management. On the other hand there's a sick labour market where staff shortages have overridden the classic rules of supply and demand. ... Doctors say the public health system was failing even before the pandemic. But they stayed with it, some in anticipation of change, others out of habit. ... After a year and a half of the pandemic, many have come to the conclusion that it's now time to go.”