† The corona crisis has taken a heavy toll on the healthcare transport sector. One of the consequences of this was that staff (sometimes out of necessity) left the sector, because many journeys were canceled for a longer period of time. Now that the demand for healthcare transport has increased again, the sector is struggling with hundreds of vacancies that are difficult to fill. This not only concerns drivers, but also support staff such as dispatchers, supervisors and mechanics. The shortage is increasing to such an extent that companies indicate that they can no longer do rides on time. Some companies indicate that rides are in danger of being canceled altogether. This includes trips to hospitals, healthcare institutions and educational institutions.
At the peak of the corona crisis, transport volumes in, among other things, Wmo transport and in the Regiotaxi significantly reduced. In daytime transport and seated patient transport, the volumes were many tens of percent lower than before the crisis. Healthcare transport companies were hit financially as a result, despite the generic support measures and the fact that various clients assisted financially where possible by compensating part of the canceled journeys. Some of the staff left the sector due to the lower transport volumes. On the one hand, because the support measures were not always sufficient to keep all the staff (including many flexible staff) in service. On the other hand, because personnel stopped working or were able to find work elsewhere.
Now that the transport sector has recovered somewhat, the sector is confronted with a major shortage of personnel. The number of reports of illness is also increasing due to the increase in corona infections. A problem that is difficult to solve for the carriers, which could mean that not everyone can be transported in the future. Customers already sometimes have to wait longer than agreed for the taxi that will take them to day care or to the hospital, for example.
KNV chairman Bertho Eckhardt is very concerned about the size of the this problem: ‘Nationally speaking, we see hundreds of vacancies that are difficult to fill. This means that extra staff is already being called upon within companies, but that is not always sufficient for the large peak of transport in the morning and the afternoon. We see that entrepreneurs are making adjustments in consultation with clients to prevent rides being cancelled. This requires a great deal of effort and creativity from the companies in order to be able to serve customers in the best possible way. We notice that entrepreneurs are really up for grabs. Fortunately, most clients understand the situation. This is a good business. But of course the passengers in our taxis experience the real problem. They can no longer always be transported on time, or they are no longer driven by their regular driver. This is a major problem for a vulnerable target group.’
KNV, together with the entrepreneurs, is looking for solutions to the problem in various ways. Unfortunately, the staff shortage will not be solved overnight, as it also occurs in other sectors such as healthcare and the catering industry. The industry therefore mainly asks for understanding of the situation. Bertho Eckhardt about this: ‘It is not ill-will that the companies cannot always meet the transport demand when customers want it. Healthcare carriers are part of the healthcare chain and constantly monitor the interests of the customer. However, we have now ended up in a situation where we are sometimes no longer able to meet the customer’s wishes. Entrepreneurs are really upset about that.’
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