Sint-Truiden opens Flanders’ first overflow hospital


Some 30 sites across the region are being turned into temporary care centres to ease the pressure on hospitals

Taking the strain

Sint-Truiden has become the first municipality in Flanders to open an overflow hospital to deal with coronavirus cases. A former care home has been fitted with the facilities necessary to take in patients, easing up the pressure on the main Sint-Trudo hospital.

“We knew that there could be too much pressure on hospitals in certain regions, and that is why the replacement care centres are being developed,” explained Flemish public health minister Wouter Beke. “They can provide a buffer, taking certain patients from the hospital or before they are admitted.”

The government of Flanders started planning for overflow hospitals at the end of last week. “Thanks to that preparation, we can now start quickly,” Beke added. “I’m grateful to all partners involved for the good work. Together we can ensure that our healthcare system continues to run smoothly.”

Utilising free space

Over the weekend, Sint-Truiden’s main hospital had 64 patients who had tested positive for the corona virus, with eight on ventilators. This left only two more intensive care beds with ventilators.

With 10 or more new patients expected early this week, the governor of Limburg province gave permission for the former Madrugada residential care centre to be converted into an overflow hospital.

The overflow care centre will take coronavirus and other patients who are well enough to leave the main hospital, but cannot do so for various reasons. For example, they may be waiting for a place in a care home to become available.

Hotels & monasteries

It will also take recovering coronavirus patients, on condition that they are kept under close observation and can be returned to intensive care if necessary. Finally, patients being referred to the hospital by family doctors may first be sent to the new facility before being admitted or sent home.

Following government advice, some 30 replacement care centres are being prepared across Flanders. Each will start with about 30 beds, with the capacity to expand to 50 beds if needed. They could be housed in vacant care centres, as in Sint-Truiden, in hotels or even in monasteries.

Leuven is preparing to convert the Pellenberg rehabilitation centre near Lubbeek into an overflow hospital, according to VRT. Meanwhile Vilvoorde will have around 60 overflow beds in the former Van Helmont hospital.

Photo: Yorick Jansens/BELGA