Virus: in intensive care, parents replaced grandparents

In Belgium, the average age of Covid patients in intensive care has fallen: “we no longer have the grandparents, rather the parents, of 40, 50 or 60 years,” said a Belgian nurse on Tuesday, while the pressure on the hospital system is increasing.

In a testimony to AFP, Nicolas Ottermans explained that, in accordance with the national slogan, the hospital which employs him in Brussels must now reserve 60% of its beds in intensive care units (ICU) for patients of the coronavirus.

Concretely, the Iris-Sud hospital in Ixelles must reserve 15 of its 23 ICU beds for the pandemic, said the head nurse of the service. This makes it necessary to deprogram interventions linked to other pathologies.

A caregiver in the intensive care unit of Etterbeek-Ixelles hospital, which receives Covid-19 patients, on April 6, 2021 in Brussels (AFP – JOHN THYS)

On Tuesday, the Belgian health authorities listed, in this country of 11.5 million inhabitants, 3,053 people hospitalized due to the pandemic, including 865 in intensive care, a figure which has doubled in one month.

“At the current rate we will have reached the threshold of 1,000 patients in intensive care in a week,” said a spokesperson for the authorities for this crisis, virologist Steven Van Gucht, at a press conference.

Belgium, which has around 2,000 intensive care beds, had already been severely affected by the two previous waves, with occupancy peaks at 1,285 in April and even at 1,474 in November, according to the Sciensano institute.

– A third “complicated” wave –

This time, the vaccination – started at the beginning of January – protects older people more. The death rate is lower than in the first wave, because the patients, younger, are more resistant, explained Nicolas Ottermans.

However “their length of stay (in intensive care) is a little longer”, he stressed, which weighs on the nursing teams.

“We are tired. This third wave is really complicated,” says the nurse.

Nursing staff in the intensive care unit of Etterbeek-Ixelles hospital, in Brussels on April 6, 2021 (AFP - JOHN THYS)

Nursing staff in the intensive care unit of Etterbeek-Ixelles hospital, in Brussels on April 6, 2021 (AFP – JOHN THYS)

“We had the hope in January-February that we were going to have only small ripples, but here we are really in a third wave, not exponential, but heavy, slow, dragging”, he laments .

If the average number of new infections begins to decrease in Belgium (4,300 per day recorded Tuesday, a decrease of 10% over a week), the effect should be noticeable in hospitals for several weeks, according to him.

“We’re still going to be in the red for four to six weeks,” Ottermans predicted.

To the youth who suffer from the restrictions of gatherings (limited to four adults maximum outdoors), the caregiver wanted to deliver a message: “Attention! During the first wave, it was the grandparents who were intubated, ventilated. Now it’s the parents. It would be really stupid for young people to infect their parents. “

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