What to look out for if there is a next time…
Eva M. Weinreich-Jensen
Senior Advisor, Danish Regions
Former President of the European Hospital and Healthcare Federation (HOPE)
Valuable lessons have been learned in the Danish health care system over the last months. Who would have thought that we, so quickly and efficiently, could adjust the hospital organization to many more intensive care units, that our personnel could be trained to take over other functions so quickly and that we could do this with a limited number of conflicts between the silos and excellent cooperation between private and public systems? Who would have thought that online consultation with family doctors could be initiated almost over a weekend? And in an initial situation where the lack of protection gear and the race to get it was like the Wild West internationally! This has all demanded a lot of goodwill from everybody and a strong wish to show the patients that: We got you. Don’t worry. It will be all hands-on deck. But basically, the high degree of trust between the health care sector and national authorities and a solid tool for planning with frames that makes it easier for health professionals to improvise in a situation like the pandemic, has also been extremely important in the last few months for us to succeed.
Initially the biggest fear and what to avoid almost no matter what was not being able to treat all Covid-19 patients in need. As of now has Denmark handled that. Still it is important to acknowledge, that we weren’t as ready as we should have been. We did not have the gear or the plan. As pandemics are never the same, nobody are likely to be 100 % geared for what will come next time around, though, we know that team spirit will take us a long way, but it is probably a good idea to spend some time on how the general level of preparedness should look like. The most necessary protection gear must be at hand from the beginning and should not involve lucky deals from random suppliers.
At the same time, it is also important to say that if there is a next time, we must be careful not to change too much too quickly to be prepared for a vast number of Covid-19 patients that are not sure to come. That we must hold on to as much as the normal daily business of treating all patients if we can and as long as we can. A huge number of planned surgeries, controls, appointments etc. were postponed first time around. In a way we put a lot of patients on hold. A limited number of new cancer patients have seen their general practitioners and been referred to specialists at our hospitals, mental care patients have stayed away, and ordinary people/patients have tried not to “bother” the health care system. It makes sense that people did not get the flu this year, but you wouldn’t think that cancer cared about social distancing. So, we worry that too many patients out of different reasonings have waited to contact us, and that their diagnoses will have worsened when we do see them.
That is a high price to pay and one that is hard to live with in the longer run. So, we need to keep that in mind and think about how we can handle that. So far, the Covid-19 were manageable in the Danish health care system, but success or failure cannot just be counted in the number of deaths from Covid-19 and we will look out for that if there is a next time around.
Copenhagen, June 29, 2020