IC Chief Girbes: Mistake of Treating Patients Differently to Ethnicity

Armand Girbes, head of intensive care at the VUmc in Amsterdam, thinks that Geert Wilders, with his words about an overrepresentation of people with a non-Western background in the ICUs, has’ taken off ‘by wondering whether’ Henk en Ingrid ”now fall victim to“ Mohammed and Fatima who do not speak our language and do not respect the rules ”. The intensivist and professor said this on NPO Radio 1 on Monday. Girbes only wanted to signal the problem with his statements so that a solution can be sought, he said.

Girbes told Sunday in a section of the radio program Argos that he had noticed that, unlike in the first wave, there were relatively many people with a non-Western background in his department. Inquiries showed that the same seems to be the case in other hospitals in North and South Holland. “I am a hospital doctor who works in the ICU, that is my profession,” he explained his statement on Monday. “I would really like to see people who are experts in this, epidemiologists, virologists, see what risk factors play a role.”

Find out more about the possible causes of overrepresentation among migrants: ‘We like to get together, preferably with the whole family’

‘On the run’

PVV leader Geert Wilders dedicated Sunday afternoon a tweet to the observation of the doctor: “So treatments and operations of Henk and Ingrid with cancer, heart failure or other diseases are being postponed again because the ICs are mainly occupied by Mohammed and Fatima who do not speak our language and do not respect the rules?” Those are “not my words”, says Girbes. “I have made an observation, some politicians are running off with that.” The doctor finds all his patients “equally important and precious,” he emphasized. “I don’t know very much about life, but one thing I do know for sure is that it is completely wrong to treat or refuse patients worse on the basis of ethnicity, race or origin.”

Girbes himself thinks that a number of factors may play a role in the overrepresentation of people with a non-Western background in the number of IC patients with Covid-19. For example, the elderly may be more exposed to the virus because they more often live in the house with young people, who became ill most often in recent weeks. He mainly thinks that something must be done about the information, because people who do not speak Dutch seem to be insufficiently reached.

On Sunday, Girbes said he had doubts about publicizing his perception of the overrepresentation of this group, because society might judge or interpret his words “differently or incorrectly, but I look at it as a doctor or scientist.” Better figures should be collected to chart the extent of the problem. Further investigation would help to find the causes.

This article is also part of our live blog: Rotterdam mayor Aboutaleb infected with the corona virus

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