Brussels hospitals no longer accepts young cancer patients amid staff shortage

Europe: The paediatric oncology department at the Brussels University Hospital (UZ Brussel) can no longer receive young cancer patients undergoing critical treatment because of acute staff shortages.

The staff shortage has been a problem for UZ Brussels for some time now. However, as the entire department is not closed, the patients who are in post-treatment care can still remain.

UZ Brussel spokesperson Petra Van San shared the information, “This is a temporary situation due to staff shortages. Consequently, we are now forced to transfer some 15 patients who require acute treatment – for example, children who regularly come to the hospital for chemotherapy – to another oncology centre.”

In the majority of the cases, it concerns children who are admitted to the hospital on a day-to-day basis, so the transfer is not made through ambulances. “The transfer has, of course, been done in consultation with the patients and their parents, but nevertheless, it remains a difficult situation.”

“We are not starting new treatments either. Children who are in follow-up treatment after the acute phase are still being cared for by us” stated Van San. The patients will be transferred to different centres, such as at another hospital in Brussels, Leuven or Ghent, depending on where they live.

“For the parents, the children and the caregivers, this is obviously not a pleasant situation. That is why we have spoken to each of them personally. After all, we realise that the impact is considerable. The most important thing for us is that the care for these children remains optimal.”

When the UZ Brussel will be able to receive more patients in the paediatric oncology department again, or if the current patients will be allowed to return at some point is uncertain. “We are in talks with a maximum number of doctors, but we cannot say when the situation will be restored.”

According to her, it has been difficult for the hospital to find specialists for about two years. “At the moment, a combination of staff changes, illness, and holiday periods means that we are short of staff.”

Van San added that this is part of a wider problem, as paediatricians, in general, are more difficult to find, especially when it comes to certain specialisations. “As a hospital, we continue to work proactively on our teams and staffing, but it is not always easy to provide a solution.”

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