EINDWERK: The incident management response of the emergency departments in Belgium during the first wave of the SARS-COV-2 pandemic. | Ruben Haesendonck

Shortly after the first detection of a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus-2 (SARSCoV-2) case in Belgium, the current health care crisis was declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the 11th of March 2020. At the day of writing, more than 125 million infections and 2.75 million deaths have already been reported worldwide.

As the current pandemic and previous epidemics have shown, emergency departments (EDs) are at the frontline of care for outbreaks of viral diseases.2,3 As gate keeper of the hospital, they have to reorganize and restructure their operations swiftly in order to cope with a rapidly increasing number of patients while maintaining high quality and efficient care.

In disaster medicine, EDs should respond to a surge in patient presentations by rapidly expanding their structure, staff, supplies and adjust their functioning systems tailored to the needs. However, there is insufficient scientific literature on how an ED should deal with sudden onset pandemics.7 Up to now there are limited studies who assessed the ED’s preparedness of the COVID-19 pandemic. An Indian survey based study revealed that there was a high variance in the level of preparedness among EDs.8A similar study in France showed that EDs were poorly prepared.
This study performed an assessment of measures taken by the Belgian EDs at the start of the current health care crisis, in the period from the 1st of March until the 31st of May 2020. This assessment must provide more information in order to learn and to better prepare for a next wave or pandemic.

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