Healthcare staff have spoken out against a decision by the Belgian Government to provide ‘front-line’ medical staff with a one-time bonus of €1,450, calling for more protective equipment rather than a bonus.
“The announcement has created tensions in the hospitals,” said Christophe Happe, director of the National Federation for Medico-Social Associations (Unessa), explaining that while the bonus rewarded doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other front line staff, it was ultimately causing avoidable tensions.
“Logistics staff who ensure that care providers can concentrate fully on caring for patients would be excluded, as would staff in nursing homes, who are nevertheless fighting just as hard against the pandemic,” Happe said. A bonus for front-line medical staff would “fragment a health system, which represents a set of professions on the front line without respite.”
Instead of “destabilising staff on the ground” with such a bonus, Happe hopes that authorities will consult with the sector first. As director of Unessa, he represents 300 organisations active in health care and personal assistance. “Any bonuses could be considered once the crisis is behind us,” he said.
The National Federation for Nurses in Belgium (FNIB) was also unhappy with the proposal. In an open letter, they asked for their profession to be recognised as a hard profession, and to acknowledge the “painful and dangerous nature” of their jobs.
The federation called on politicians to “take responsibility”. “Where are you while we are on the ground against all odds and against this merciless and invisible enemy,” they asked Health Minister Maggie De Block.
Additionally, the FNIB pleaded to stop budget cuts. “How can we keep the economy going if the majority of health workers are no longer providing care?”
De Block is currently facing lots of criticism as Health Minister, most notably after it was discovered that she had a large supply of mouth masks destroyed three years ago without replenishing the stock.