Assessing the management of hospital surge capacity in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Belgium
Health Services Research (HSR)
When the Covid-19 crisis broke out, additional capacity quickly had to be created in the hospitals. The Hospital & Transport Surge Capacity (HTSC) committee was set up at the beginning of March 2020 to advise the Risk Management Group on maximum hospital and patient transport capacity. In June 2020 the KCE was given the task of evaluating how the committee had functioned during the first wave of the epidemic and the way the hospitals responded to the measures it had enacted. The request came from the HTSC committee itself.
Our study showed that the committee was up and running very quickly, taking a series of radical measures to increase hospital capacities in order to cater for COVID-19 patients (for example, the suspension of all non-emergency care). The hospitals found these measures clear, although not always easy to put into practice, and reacted very professionally, in a fine spirit of solidarity. However, it will be important in the future to make provision for a legal framework for these measures (for example the distribution plans) so as to enable the RMG to immediately make their implementation mandatory in the event of future crises.
We also concluded that the committee’s composition makes it a preferential platform for the discussion of hospital-related issues. It would therefore be wise to maintain it as a consultative body that can be activated in the event of a crisis situation calling for additional hospital capacity. Ideally its composition should be broadened to include doctors and nurses, so that the frontline players are also represented in it.
KCE Reports 335: Assessing the management of hospital surge capacity in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Belgium