Coronavirus: Nurses with COVID-19 asked to carry on working at under pressure hospital in Belgium

Medical staff at The University Hospital of Liege
Medical staff at The University Hospital of Liege Copyright AFP
By Shona Murray, Joanna Gill
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"There's nothing but bad solutions because that's the point we are reaching now," said Dr Alexander Ghuysen, head of the emergency department at the hospital in Liege.


A hospital at the centre of a coronavirus hotspot in Belgium is asking its nurses to carry on working even if they test positive for COVID-19.

Liege, situated in the east near the border with the Netherlands, has the highest coronavirus incidence rate in Belgium.

Coronavirus-positive nurses at a hospital in Liege have been asked to continue working as long as they are not displaying symptoms.

Dr Alexander Ghuysen, head of the emergency department at the hospital, told Euronews the decision had been a difficult one.

"It's getting worse and worse, we are reaching a critical point," he said.

He says that its a struggle every day to find solutions for beds and staff. Currently 20 per cent of staff members are off-duty due to Covid infections.

He explains that there is no risk of contagion, since those staff who tested positive with Covid will only come into contact with other patients with the virus.

"All the staff that is infected must eat in another place than the others. In a kind of infected room where they are only authorised to go there," he says, adding that the room is then cleaned and there is no close contact between infected and non-infected team members.

"I mean there’s a point where there’s nothing but bad solutions. It’s the point we are reaching now."

Second wave worse than the first

Health officials say that Belgian intensive care units could reach maximum capacity by November 6, if the current rise in infections continue.

"The epidemiologists told us that when we go to saturation in Belgium, we’ll be in that situation for months," explains Dr Philippe Devos, president of ABSYM – BVAS Belgian Medical Unions Association.

He says that they will only be able to treat new patients after January.

It will be a long winter for healthcare workers in Belgium.
Dr Philippe Devos
President of ABSYM – BVAS Belgian Medical Unions Association

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has this week recorded Belgium as having the highest 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 citizens, just surpassing the Czech Republic.

At 1,390.9 per 100,000 people, it far outstrips even hotbeds like France or Spain.

More than 11,000 people have died in Belgium from COVID-19 since the start of the outbreak and the country has one of the worst fatality rates per million of population in Europe.

All this in a wealthy nation of 11.5 million people where no fewer than nine ministers — national and regional — have a say on health issues.

“A great many politicians can claim power but, in the end, no one is ever responsible,” historian and former member of the European Parliament Luckas Vander Taelen said. He called Belgium's system of multiple layers of government to serve the 6.5 million Dutch-speaking Flemings in the north and the 5 million Francophones “institutional lasagna."

Belgium is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, a crossroad of international trade and its capital, Brussels, hosts the headquarters of the 27-nation European Union with its steady stream of international visitors. But Belgium's political makeup, with its multiple regional authorities, also creates a kaleidoscope of different government health measures.


Throughout the pandemic crisis, the Belgian population was unified in one thing: The general sense of confusion and bewilderment about the ever-changing rules imposed by the different layers of government. For someone living near Brussels, a bar closing hour or a maximum cap on attending a funeral might face different rules within just 20 kilometres (12 miles).

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