As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic thousands of adults and children are have had diagnoses for preventable and treatable diseases missed. It’s not all about cancer, either with a large backlog in the number of diagnoses for many other diseases, too
Translated by Adriana Dancu
After the first Coronavirus wave, no catching to normal levels has occurred, according to current figures from the Dutch Association for Pathology (NVVP). Even since the partial lockdown was lifted, hospitals are still behind.
Jos Bart, chairman of the NVVP, says that the figures are alarming: “This means that there must be thousands of patients in the Netherlands with a serious, possibly malignant disease, which has not yet been discovered. A good treatment option exists for a significant proportion of these patients, provided treatment is not delayed for too long. A further delay means that they only see a specialist at a more serious stage of their illness. That is unfavorable for the prognosis. We are very concerned about that.”
During the first Coronavirus wave, regular care at GPs and hospitals was drastically scaled down. Screenings for cervical cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer were temporarily halted. This has led to a sharp drop in the number of diagnoses, according to the figures of pathologists, who are engaged in making diagnoses based on tissue research.
“We had hoped that some catching up would be done. But after the first wave, a slow recovery has occurred to normal levels. Then came the second wave. The backlogs have never been made up,” says Bart.
He does not expect any improvement in the coming months. Hospitals are currently still canceling 10 to 20 percent of regular care because they have their hands full with the care of COVID patients. “It looks like the second wave will last all winter. By then the backlogs will be so great that it will be impossible to catch up. I am afraid that patients will then have to deal with waiting lists and additional health damage,” says Bart.
Since the start of the pandemic, 15 percent fewer diagnoses have been made this year than the average for the past five years, the pathology figures show. This concerns both forms of cancer and other diseases, such as chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal system. The backlog is greatest in diseases that are detected through a population screening: more than 25 percent of the ‘normal’ number of diagnoses is missing in colon cancer, breast cancer and cervical cancer. Remarkably, the delay in children is just as great as in adults, according to the pathologists: “Think of celiac disease, for example. Celiac disease, or a gluten allergy, is a benign but nasty disease that can cause stunted growth if diagnosed late.”
The Federation of Medical Specialists also speaks of a worrying development and calls on anyone with complaints to report to the doctor. “Don’t be hesitant about that,” said the professional association of approximately 20,000 doctors in hospitals. “The hospital is a safe place to go and all hospitals are open to anyone who needs it.”
The pathology figures show that acute care has been maintained: for example, the number of appendectomies has been at a normal level throughout the year.
Hospitals Drenthe, Groningen and Friesland are forced to reduce the number of patients with common diseases to make space for COVID infected people. Dagblad Noorden reports that almost third of treatments have been postponed, so that nursing beds can be available for patients suffering from the Coronavirus. In order to make room for Coronavirus infected patients, regular care has been reduced by more than 20 percent.
This downscaling is now continuing, on average around 30 percent. However, there are large differences in each hospital. Acute care, and planned treatments are usually the ones canceled.
The source article can be found here.
Image via the UMCG