Starting in early 2020, the accident and emergency departments at the hospitals in Hoogeveen and Stadskanaal will be closing – patients in need of urgent care overnight or in the weekend will have to seek treatment at other local hospitals.
Translation by Traci White
Dagblad van het Noorden reports that the health care direction team in Drenthe and Southeast Groningen confirmed the department closures on Wednesday. Both the Refaja hospital in Stadskanaal and the Bethesda hospital in Hoogeveen are part of the Treant healthcare group.
The A&E is not the only impacted service: the nursing wards of the hospital will also be closed in the weekends, and patients receiving specialist care or who need to remain in hospital for a longer period of time will have to seek treatment elsewhere.
The possibility of closing the emergency care facilities at the Refaja hospital in the Groningen city of Stadskanaal was raised in May of this year, when it was suggested that the department would likely be shut down before September of 2020.
The Dagblad reports that in response to the pending closures, more ambulances will be stationed throughout the provinces to transport patients to the facilities where they can receive treatment. To that end, UMCG’s ambulance care services director Victor Verrijp says that a new ambulance station will be set up between Emmen and Hoogeveen.
In February, Treant had previously announced plans to cease providing complex and emergency care in Stadskanaal and Hoogeveen. The health care group has been facing financial difficulties in recent years and has had trouble finding qualified staff: over the course of 2018, 14% of the staff at Treant hospitals left their positions.
Hospitals across The Netherlands, the north in particular, have faced an uphill battle of late with attracting new staff. UMCG in Groningen has offered 5,000 euro bonuses to fill key staffing positions, and it was recently announced that a number of operation rooms which were closed due to staff shortages in 2018 will remain closed for the time being.
Treant is in the midst of is a long-term plan to centralise care services in the north. From a healthcare perspective, there are arguments to be made both in favour and against merging certain departments and services. For emergency care, proximity is crucial, and in The Netherlands, ambulances are meant to be able to make a round trip from a patient’s home back to the nearest medical facility within 45 minutes. As hospitals consolidate some of their services, enforcing that norm will become a bigger challenge.
However, hospitals providing specialist care, including scheduled surgeries, may benefit from more centralisation: surgical departments that carry out more procedures per year tend to perform better in terms of patient outcomes.