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Other official information and services:  belgium

The activities of hospitals are organised into services, functions and care programmes.

Services group together activities that are linked to a specific location within the hospital. A distinction is made between hospitalisation services, where patients reside during their stay in hospital, and medical or medico-technical services, where certain specific services requiring special expertise or equipment are provided. Medical services include transplant centres or centres for burn victims. Medical-technical services include medical imaging services (CT scanning, NMR, Pet-Scanner, etc.), human genetics centres, radiotherapy services and kidney dialysis centres.

Functions are hospital activities made available to all hospital departments. Several functions are subject to specific standards and controls by the competent community or region. Functions include hospital pharmacy, palliative care, intensive care and emergency department, hospital blood bank, mediation, pain management and the clinical biology lab, amongst others.

Care programmes can be defined as an organisational framework for implementing ‘care pathways’ for a specific target group. They are the result of an arrangement between the hospitalisation services, medical or medico-technical services and functions that are necessary in order to provide high-quality care. 

There are currently various care programmes:

  • The care programme for ‘cardiac pathology’ 
  • The care programme for ‘reproductive medicine’ 
  • The care programme for cancer patients 
  • The care programme for children 
  • The care programme for geriatric patients
  • The care programme for ‘stroke care’.

Find out more about the location and services offered by the different hospitals:


Types of hospital services 

Each service within the hospital must be accredited and meet specific standards, including minimum bed capacity, the required level of activity, technical equipment and the number of providers of medical, paramedical and care services.

Each service is allocated an index or identification letter referring to the subgroup of patients concerned. To be able to provide a better overview, we can group the different types of services according to the nature of the conditions generally treated there.

  • Acute beds: for short stays, i.e. stays that do not require long-term treatment: e.g. surgery (index C), internal medicine (index D), paediatrics (index E), care of premature infants (index NIC), maternity (index M).
  • Geriatric beds: for the care of geriatric patients (index G).
  • Chronic beds: for longer-term hospitalisations or for patients requiring chronic treatment: rehabilitation (index S1 for cardiopulmonary pathologies, S2 for locomotor pathologies, S3 for neurological pathologies, S5 for chronic polypathologies and S6 for psychogeriatric pathologies) and beds for palliative care (index S4).
  • Psychiatric beds and places: for the care of patients with mental disorders, possibly only during the day or at night: such as beds or places for the observation and neuropsychiatric treatment of adults (index A, A1, A2, T and T1) or of children (index k, k1 and k2).


Evolution in the number of accredited hospital beds

Population ageing and innovation in healthcare are reflected in the changes in the number of accredited hospital beds. Since 1995, we have seen a decrease in the number of accredited ‘acute’ hospital beds (-24%). The reason for this is that over the years, patients have to spend less time in the hospital for certain illnesses and procedures. The case of geriatric (+29%), specialist (+370%) and psychiatric beds (+67%)[1] shows a shift in the opposite direction. In these areas, an increase in the number of beds is observed since 1995. This can be explained in part by the ageing of the population. Overall, we have observed a decrease of 2,395 beds (-4%) in Belgian hospitals. Between 2010 and 2015, we have seen an increase in accredited beds as a result of mergers between general and specialist hospitals[2].

Evolution of the number of accredited
hospital beds

The geographical distribution of accredited hospital beds
per 100,000 inhabitants

The Brussels-Capital Region has the highest number of beds per 100,000 inhabitants. In second and third place we find West Flanders and Hainaut, respectively. Walloon Brabant and Flemish Brabant are the provinces with the lowest number of beds.

Number of accredited beds per
100,000 inhabitants by province and the Brussels-Capital Region

[1]Frozen beds will be counted given the accreditation for this is maintained.

[2]Source CIC: 01/01/2023