April 1, 2020 / 6:42 PM / 2 months ago

Shortage of drugs and equipment: Brussels hospitals sound the alarm

FILE PHOTO: Members of medical personnel test a person for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the testing site of the Erasme Hospital in Brussels, Belgium, March 30, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Hospitals in the Belgian capital called on the federal government on Wednesday to address a shortage of medicines and equipment, as COVID-19 patients continue to arrive at intensive care units that are starting to fill up.

“Federal authorities do not seem to see or hear that the reality is that hospitals are in a massive shortage of all protective gear and drugs needed to treat COVID-19 patients and other categories of equipment like syringes,” around 10 public and private hospitals said in a statement issued via the federation of hospitals and care homes for Belgium’s regions of Brussels and Wallonia known as Santhea.

Belgium, with some 11.5 million people, is one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus in Europe.

Some 4,995 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms in the country, meaning around half of the health services’ capacity has been taken up treating the disease. The health ministry says it expects the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 to peak in the coming days and weeks.

Except for real emergencies, hospitals are focused on COVID-19 patients only.

“The situation is really dramatic,” the statement said, adding that the hospitals are currently working with a three-day stock of medicines and fear they would soon no longer be able to offer adequate care.

Belgium’s health ministry announced earlier on Wednesday that its stock of drugs such as curare, a drug to relax muscles of intubated patients, would last until mid-April.

The reality on the ground seems different as “there is a real shortage of curare-type drugs and for other drugs, it becomes really very difficult,” said Valerie Victoor, general adviser at Santhea.

Belgium reported its death toll rose by 123 to a total of 828 people on Wednesday, and its number of cases was up 1,189 to 13,964. Officials said the nation’s testing capacity would reach 10,000 daily by the end of the week.

Reporting by Marine Strauss @StraussMarine; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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