Dutch hospitals warn of risk to patients from no-deal Brexit

The Hague (AFP) –


Dutch hospitals warned Thursday of medical shortages that would put patients' health at risk if Britain crashes out of the European Union without a divorce deal.

The warning is a sign that fears about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit are spreading from Britain to the rest of the EU, with the March 29 exit day rapidly nearing.

"The future is very uncertain, we have no idea what is going to happen," Wouter van der Horst, a spokesman for the Federation of Dutch Hospitals (NVZ) told AFP.

"We import tens of thousands of objects and products, notably from Britain, whose delivery could be held up. Even one screw that was supposed to be imported from Britain could hold up the treatment of a patient."

The Dutch Federation of University Hospitals (NFU) gave an even stronger warning and called on the government to help.

"If the British leave without a deal, the university hospitals foresee major risks for daily operations" and "put the health of patients under pressure", an NFU statement said late Wednesday.

They warned of "shortages of medicines and medical equipment" and urged the Dutch health ministry to push an "emergency law" at a European level to guarantee the certification of medical products from Britain.

If they failed to do so "50 percent of medical products would not be able to be imported after March 29", the federation added.

"It's impossible for hospitals to prepare for the consequences of a no-deal Brexit on their own," it said.

Health minister Bruno Bruins admitted there could be a risk "concerning health services that could affect citizens and patients" but said it was up to hospitals to make preparations.

"Brexit is causing uncertainty and a lot of extra work and no-one is happy about that," he said in a letter to the NFU, but "hospitals are responsible for their own operations".

Ironically, among a number of institutions and firms that are ditching Britain for the Netherlands is the EU's medicines agency, which will move to Amsterdam in March.

The Dutch parliament was Thursday debating a controversial bill granting Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government emergency powers to deal with problems caused if a no-deal Brexit severs trade and customs ties overnight between Britain and the EU.

Britain has meanwhile hired extra ferries and planes to transport critical goods including medicines in case there is no agreement.