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Half of unexpected deaths in Belgian hospitals are due to shortage of staff

Half of the unexpected deaths in Belgian hospitals are due to a shortage of nurses, according to a study by the University of Antwerp.

Researchers from the University of Antwerp show the link between the number of nurses in hospitals and the death of the patients they care for, based on data from 34,567 patients’ medical records in four Flemish, one Walloon and two Brussels hospitals. The records showed that, on average, three out of every thousand patients in the hospital died ‘unexpectedly’. A death is considered as unexpected when a patient suddenly dies during active treatment, with no care plan for the end of their life having been started.

“We know from previous research that part of these unexpected deaths can be avoided, which is always heartbreaking for the family as well as the staff,” said Filip Haegdorens, a researcher at the university. “As a sector, we must do everything we can to prevent this,” he added.

The average nurse in Belgium is responsible for 9.7 patients at a time. For 89% of all departments, the number of nurses per hospital department was too low to be able to ensure good quality care. “Compared to, for example, Australian hospitals, where legal minimums exist, our Belgian figures could be improved,” said Haegdorens.

The study also shows a link between the training level of nurses and the number of unexpected deaths in the hospital. “In some hospital services, we found that more nurses with a high level of education would reduce the risk of unexpected deaths,” Haegdorens added.

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Source: The Brussels Times, 4 December 2019


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