General practitioners in the West Flanders region of Roulers will be escorted by police when they go on high-risk home visits, under an agreement concluded on Thursday by the RIHO (Roulers, Izegem and Hooglede) police zone and the local association of general practitioners. According to the Belgian Association of Medical Unions (ABSYM), the measure had been discussed with Home Affairs Minister Jan Jambon as a way of providing better security for all general practitioners.
The doctors will now be able to call on the police whenever they notice anything shady about a patient they have to visit. The accompanying officer will make sure everything is safe when he or she arrives and will remain until the visit ends.
Late last year a doctor had been murdered in Izegem during a home visit. “That caused a great deal of emotion, which could explain the initiative” between the RIHO police and the general practitioners, said Prof. Jean-Jacques Rombouts, Vice President of the National Medical Association.
For its part, ABSYM, which said it had a “constructive” meeting with Minister Jambon on Monday, welcomed the initiative, but regretted the fact that it did not cover doctors elsewhere. "Police escorts were discussed," ABSYM president Dr. Marc Moens said at Monday's meeting. “The idea would be to accompany the general practitioners whenever they have to go to areas considered dangerous.”
The National Medical Association said, however, that this was just “one of a number of measures”. Noting that "many solutions are being envisaged in a more complex reflection", Prof. Rombouts described the measure as "reassuring”. He also said that, in order to ensure patients' privacy, accompanying police officers would not be allowed to attend the consultations.