In Flanders, people are increasingly struggling to find a doctor in their vicinity as general practicioners are often no longer taking on new patients due to their heavy workload. The region has now launched an initiative to make the profession more attractive.
At the start of the last big wave of Covid-19 infections last year, the pressure on doctors was obvious. Although the pandemic-related situation has calmed down slightly, the burden on GPs has not. Flemish Public Health Minister Hilde Crevits has now announced various financial measures to combat the issue of the shortage in Flanders.
"There is a pressing shortage of GPs in Flanders. To make it as attractive as possible for beginning GPs to start working in a practice, we offer interest-free loans for the development of GP practices," she said on Tuesday morning in a statement.
From 1 January next year, new doctors will receive a one-off interest-free loan of up to €35,000 to launch their own practice or joining an existing group practice. The loan must be applied for within five years of establishing the practice.
Another €10,000 will be given if a nurse or support staff (reception or administrative assistant) is employed by the practice, a bid to remove as much administrative burden from doctors as possible.
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A support premium is also provided for general practitioners to alleviate the workload in their practice and to assist them financially in light of the rising wage cost of staff, while an additional premium will be handed out if the GP provides training to further professionalise the practice staff.
Right to a local GP
Various regions are struggling with a shortage of GPs, which has driven Crevits to call on the general practitioners' association Domus Medica to better monitor the numbers of existing GP practices per region and the actual shortages that are faced by some communities.
Meanwhile, the subsidies and support is hoped to make up for this shortfall. "With this initiative, we want to motivate GPs as much as possible and support them so that they can use their time and resources efficiently for taking care of people," Crevits said.
"It is important that every person in Flanders can go to a GP in his or her neighbourhood," she added.