For the medical professional liability (MPL) market in the Netherlands, the outlook was similar to much of the world. The number of MPL claims over the past few years had remained constant, if not actually declined.
Healthcare in the Netherlands is becoming safer. However, there
has also been a significant increase in the average approved claims, a trend that creates major challenges for MPL companies.
With the pandemic, new concerns arose. Dutch society in general and the healthcare sector suffered a huge impact from the first COVID infection wave and continues to experience challenges. The healthcare sector pulled out all the stops to provide the care required quickly and efficiently by setting up coronavirus testing stations, makeshift outdoor hospital facilities, and extra intensive care beds. Above all, the highly motivated healthcare professionals around the
Netherlands went to extraordinary lengths to provide the care needed by patients. All of these achievements earned the healthcare sector acclaim and applause.
Measuring, monitoring, and managing COVID-19 risk
Founded in 1992 by a group of hospitals with the aim of “…together keeping medical liability insurable,” MediRisk provides mutual insurance coverage for half of the country’s hospitals, independent specialist treatment centers, and general practice out-of-hours surgeries. During the past few years, MediRisk has developed a variety of data tools to analyze claims data. To examine the impact of the pandemic, MediRisk established a Corona Impact Monitor in March
2020, immediately after the initial Dutch outbreaks.
Estimating and calculating the areas of potentially greatest COVID-19 impact, it appears that the principal claims in the Netherlands will be from delayed treatment and late diagnosis and, to a lesser degree, direct coronavirus-related claims, such as increased intensive care bed occupancy compared to a typical year. At this time, there have been relatively few complaints about COVID-19-related healthcare issues. However, for non-COVID conditions, there is the risk of a
significant delay between reporting and diagnosing symptoms and then receiving treatment.
And there may be COVID-19 claims in the future given that claims are usually submitted
after two years.
Providing a connection with society members
COVID-19 placed tremendous pressure on healthcare professionals in the Netherlands. Many needed security and coverage for the special measures they had to take to deal with this unprecedented crisis. Hospitals, treatment centers, surgeries, and their care providers needed a financial safety net for the number of significant costs incurred from the special circumstances. These costs included installation of triage tents, the reassignment of care providers who had already retired, and the use of far-reaching emergency protocols. Resilience became an important topic for society members, and MediRisk conducted webinars to address these concerns.
As in many countries, Dutch lawmakers have responded to the COVID crisis. Specifically, the government has issued a guarantee to hospitals and compensates them financially for the extra COVID-19 activities. However, no special protection measures have been taken by the government in the field of liability. It is to be expected that many claims will be invoked by force majeure, given that the pandemic was and is an unprecedented situation in which hospitals could not always make their own decisions, but had to implement decisions about deployment and capacity based on government decrees in the field of public health.
For many countries, healthcare providers, and MPL insurers, the estimated cost for MPL due to COVID-19 will increase significantly in the coming years. The lessons we learn through the data on patient care and claims gathered from the pandemic will continue to instruct the MPL market for years to come.