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Dutch Hospitals Closing Emergency Departments

As part of a recent agreement among hospitals, insurers, and the health ministry, Dutch hospitals will begin specializing in certain treatments rather than offering access to all areas of medicine, starting in 2012. With hospital costs rising at a rate of 7 percent a year, compared to the 4 percent rise in overall health care costs, the goal of the shift to hospital specialization is to increase competition and drive down the price of care. Health insurers will also be able to better negotiate bulk agreement contracts with specialized hospitals. Another potential cost saver from the agreement will come from more efficient use of expensive technologies as they become centralized in hospitals based on specialty.

Under the new plan, not all hospitals will be designated for emergency care. By pushing hospitals to become specialty centers, basic care will be put back into the hands of physicians which should lead to a decrease in price. The Health Insurers Association has offered €100 million to help cover the cost of closing the departments. Nevertheless, opponents to the closures perceive believe closing the emergency departments will make it harder for the health ministry to keep its promise of having health care "close to the people," with some patients being forced to travel to other parts of the country in order to receive certain treatments.


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