SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Nearly 1,000 patients died last year as a result of having to wait more than four hours for emergency hospital treatment, doctors said on Wednesday.
The Dutch association of emergency doctors NVSHA based its figure on a British study of more than five million cases that calculated that an extra patient died for every 192 who had to wait four to six hours.
For patients waiting six to eight hours the excess death rate was one in 82. NVSHA chairman and emergency doctor David Baden blamed the longer waiting times on a shortage of specialist doctors and nurses.
‘The shortages lead to crowding and stoppages in emergency departments which mean patients can’t get treatment,’ he said. ‘That’s difficult for the staff, but outright dangerous for the patients.’
The NVSHA said 24% of patients who needed emergency treatment in the Netherlands currently has to wait longer than four hours to be seen. Baden said there were currently around 600 specialist doctors working, around half the number needed to guarantee a 24-hour service.
He called for the number of training places per year to be doubled from 40 to 80, ahead of a debate in parliament on the employment situation in healthcare on July 6. ‘It has benefits on both sides,’ he said.
‘The availability of sufficient numbers of emergency doctors ensures patients receive accessible, adequate acute care day and night, and a reduced workload makes the job attractive for medical professionals.’