Belgium’s healthcare system is in disarray, exacerbated by the pandemic, with issues ranging from a doctor shortage to patient barriers. Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke wishes to change that by restructuring the sector.

In a proposal published on Saturday, Vandenbroucke writes that he got “many signals of concern” in recent months from general practitioners, local governments, frontline areas, local governments, and patients, particularly about the shortage of general practitioners.

While some changes have been made to ensure that the primary health care system is less centred on “curing” diseases and is now more successful in providing treatment that is tailored to patients’ needs to ensure the “best available quality of life for patients,” much more work remains to be done, particularly with an aging population.

A lot of hands make work light

The Minister stated that the solutions proposed by the various field actors are very similar, and include systematic increases in the number of GPs and more efficient distribution of them across the country.

The report also recommended ways to support and delegate specific tasks, such as eliminating unnecessary administrative formalities or delegating them to pharmacists, nurses, and possibly psychologists.

Lastly, the minister emphasized the importance of improving health professionals’ well-being, with a focus on work-life balance, integration into the health care system, and, training and retention policies.

“We need to have a New Deal for General Practitioners,” Vandenbroucke said, “that looks at how we can better support the GPs, including collaboration with other providers, other care providers, or care supporting functions.

Focus on the patients

Aside from improving the careers and lives of healthcare professionals, Vandenbroucke wishes to improve the lives of patients, particularly by making it easier for patients to obtain the care they require.

“Patients should encounter as few barriers as possible in seeking preventative care and avoiding aggravating health problems,” he says.

Additionally, the minister hopes to provide free general primary health care to children and young adults under the age of 25 who have a Global Medical File with their primary care physician. A budget of €5.5 million has already been set aside for this purpose.

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