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More people in Brussels visiting A&E departments

16:05 11/09/2019

More people in Brussels than ever before are visiting hospital emergency departments. Between 2008 and 2016, 14% more people went to A&E for one reason or another, according to figures released by the Brussels Capital-Region’s Health and Social Observatory.

The figures are most notable among children and the elderly. The number of kids under the age of 15 taken to A&E by their parents rose by more than one in five during the period. For people 65 and over, the figure rose a whopping 33%. Some 40% of A&E visits were made up of people from these age groups.

“With kids, we notice a strong increase in parental concern,” Peter Verkuyckt of the Health and Social Observatory told Bruzz. “Among other reasons, it has to do with a heightened sense of alarm because of something they read on the internet or read or heard elsewhere.”

On top of that, people are now more likely to seek the help of a specialist, rather than a general practitioner like they used to, Verkuyckt said. “Over the long term, that’s become a bit problematic because regular doctors see children less often and then feel less capable of treating them.”

Living longer

The increase in elderly patients is due to the simple fact that people are living longer, he said but also added that poverty is playing a role. “We see an increase in elderly people living under the poverty line, and that is directly linked to more health problems.”

The numbers of people showing up at A&E have risen more in Brussels than in the other regions, which could have to do with the number of foreign-born residents who live there. “People who speak other languages have difficulty looking for a GP,” said Verkuyckt. “They find it simpler to just go to the hospital. They also reason that it will be easier to find someone there who speaks their language.”

Verkuyckt would like to see the whole system of primary care providers made simpler for patients. “Right now, patients have to fill up address books with all these separate care providers. We need a system that groups all primary care across disciplines in one place, so people can easily find medical, psychological and social help.”

While A&E departments in Brussels say that they are not having trouble with the additional workload at this point, Verkuyckt would like to remind people to make sure they have a general practitioner and to call on them first except in the case of an obvious health or accident emergency.

Photo: Thierry Roge/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw