Hospitals in Drenthe are being forced to postpone some procedures, including serious operations, because of a material and equipment shortage. Sources indicate that the Covid-19 pandemic, which disrupted global shipments, is one of the key issues responsible for the situation.
“If only one of the parts of a prosthesis is not available during a knee operation, the entire operation cannot go ahead,” said Erwin Kikkers, a representative of the Treant hospital group (Emmen, Hoogeveen, Stadskanaal), as reported by RTV Drenthe. Kikkers notes that operations have already been delayed across Treant hospitals because of the shortage.
The shortages, according to Xander Koolman, a health economist from the Vrije University, are partially caused by delays in shipping from manufacturers in China. The delays themselves are a direct result of frequent Covid-19 lockdowns across Chinese cities. Dutch hospitals, which rely heavily on equipment from China, as such, suffer as a result.
“The Netherlands has a system of private hospitals. It is often not profitable for these hospitals to build up large stocks because storage costs money. This works well in times of economic stability but can lead to problems during wars and epidemics,” explained Koolman, as reported by Trouw.
While Covid-19, and specifically ongoing lockdowns in China, was cited as a key cause for the issue, Jan Eisen, head of purchasing at Wilhelmina Hospital Assen, suggests that a plethora of issues have contributed to the equipment and material shortage. Namely, a scarcity of raw materials due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, tight EU regulations resulting in lower availability of certain products, and the weakened state of the Euro which makes international transactions expensive.
“It takes some getting used to. We’ve never had this problem before,” said Eisen, as reported by RTV Drenthe. While Eisen is hesitant to deem the situation a crisis, he does refer to the shortage as “problematic.”
While the shortage seems to be affecting many hospitals in the northern provinces, representatives are hesitant to call the situation a crisis. Kikkers cites that, despite the shortage, the vast majority of procedures and operations have been able to proceed without any delays. There have also, thus far, been no calls for a national overview regarding the shortage.
While the immediate situation is seemingly under control, hospitals across the northern provinces remain wary of the shortage, which, according to RTV Drenthe, seems set to continue for quite some time.