COVID-19: Europe to train 'army' of medics fearing second wave

COVID-19: Europe to train ‘army’ of medics fearing second wave

BRUSSELS (BELGIUM) – Amid the easing of coronavirus lockdown measures across Europe, hospitals are already preparing for the next wave of infections.

While some intensive care specialists are trying to hire more permanent staff, others want to create a reserve “army” of medical professionals ready to be deployed in wards with seriously ill patients.

European countries have been providing medics crash courses on how to deal with COVID-19 patients, and are now looking at ways to retrain staff to avoid shortages if there is a second wave of the novel coronavirus.

“We need a healthcare army,” said Maurizio Cecconi, president-elect of the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine (ESICM), which comprises medics from around the world who work in wards with extremely ill patients.

Cecconi, who heads the intensive care department at the Humanitas hospital in Milan, Italy, says medical staff need to be more flexible in the work they do, and more mobile.

“If there is another big wave, we should be prepared to deploy doctors and nurses from nearby regions within Italy. This did not happen a lot in the first wave,” he told Reuters.

When the pandemic struck in March and April, many countries in Europe were caught unprepared and hastily retrained medics to work with patients with severe cases of the disease, to ramp up numbers and replace those who fell sick.

In some countries, retired doctors and medical students were sent to help out in intensive care wards as hospital staff were overwhelmed. Those worst-hit by the pandemic had to provide more beds and essential equipment for acute care units, and some built new hospitals.

But problems and shortages persist. Italy, for example, may need to boost by 50 percent the number of anaesthetists, resuscitation experts and other medics it has working in intensive care, according to the Italian society of intensive care SIAARTI.


Many medics have attended crash courses on how to handle COVID-19 patients, said Jozef Kesecioglu, president of ESICM and head of intensive care at the University Medical Center of Utrecht, in the Netherlands.

“We gave them jobs with less responsibility, such as washing patients, turning patients around, checking the lungs or looking at scans,” he told Reuters.

The Netherlands is recruiting more skilled workers and hopes to narrow gaps in the intensive care workforce, said Rotterdam’s Erasmus Medical Centre.

(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field

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