One in ten retirement home beds is empty

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About 9,000 beds are vacant in Flemish residential care centers. At the end of June, the occupancy rate had fallen below 90 percent.

Half of the vacancy is a result of corona. There was a recording stop from March 14 to June 8 to avoid additional infections. This led to an additional 5.39 percent vacancy, according to figures that De Tijd was able to view.

122 million

The extra vacancy due to corona costs the government 122 million euros.

The Flemish government has committed to compensate residential care centers for such vacancy. ‘In this way, we give the institutions every opportunity to focus on the fight against corona and the well-being of the residents,’ says Flemish Minister of Welfare Wouter Beke (CD&V). According to the latest budgeting, that invoice amounts to 122 million euros. Many institutions had run into financial difficulties without aid.

This aid will be reduced from 1 October and abolished from the end of this year. This is a challenge for many residential care centers. In most regions there is an overcapacity. Vacancy was already 5.58 percent for Corona last year. Some institutions offer a discount on the daily price.

‘Vacancy has been increasing for some time,’ says Johan De Muynck, the CEO of Zorgbedrijf Antwerpen. Average vacancy in the group’s 18 institutions climbed from 1 percent in 2016 to 12 percent today. Just before corona, that was 8 percent. Many other large groups dare not come out with their figures.

© katijn van giel

There are big differences from institution to institution. “We are already fully booked again,” says Miguel Michiels, director of SOLV in Bornem.
Corona-affected institutions need more time to return their occupancy to the previous level. ‘We had a vacancy rate of 1 percent for Corona. Our four institutions that remained corona-free are back at that level. In the other, vacancy gradually fell from 8 percent in April to 5 percent in July, ‘says Dirk Lips, director of the Curando group.

The influx of 80’s is more limited because there were significantly fewer births during the war years. In combination with living at home for longer and corona mortality, this will ensure solid vacancy in the short term. Flanders will need the beds in the coming years. From 2023, the increasingly larger baby boom generations are coming.

Flanders currently has 82,500 housing units in WZCs and 2,500 in short stays.

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