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Waiting lists grow for transgender care at specialist hospitals

The University Hospital UZ Gent in Gent. (BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK)
09:42 13/01/2021

Nearly 770 transgender people are waiting for psychological or medical care related to their situation at the University Hospital UZ Gent, one of the specialist centres for providing this type of care in Belgium.

The dedicated UZ Gent service, which currently cares for 1,300 patients, cannot meet all the requests it is receiving from the transgender community. A total of 769 people are on the waiting list, including 561 adults and 208 children or adolescents.

"This means a waiting time of around 16 months between initial contact and the first appointment, which is extremely long," said Professor Guy T'Sjoen, who is calling on other hospitals to set up specialist care units for transgender people.

In response to the increasing demands, the Gent hospital plans to expand its service by hiring five additional health care professionals, including two psychologists. In 2020, the centre's  psychologists saw 285 new patients.

"The change in the number of consultations is not a surprise and we do not expect this to decrease," said Professor T'Sjoen. "In the Netherlands, applications have been on the same upward trend for years," he added.

In Flanders, the number of psychotherapists, endocrinologists and surgeons experienced in treating transgender people is gradually increasing. But the provision of psychological care and endocrinology is lacking for adolescents and children.

In Wallonia, the University Hospital in Liège is a specialist centre in this field. "We have a regular demand but we are not overwhelmed," said head of department Alain Malchaire. "We are currently treating about 40 teenagers psychologically and/or hormonally."

Written by Nick Amies