Flemish healthcare sector wants to get rid of face masks

Flemish healthcare sector wants to get rid of face masks
Credit: Belga

Wearing a face mask is still mandatory in hospitals. However, medical professionals have reached a point of wanting to do away with the compulsory masks in hospitals, report Mediahuis papers on Friday.

The wearing of masks in hospitals is the last rule from the Covid-19 period, and while it has its merits, healthcare professionals raise concerns over the lack of logic and the hindrance of communication between them and their patients.

According to Margot Cloet of the umbrella organisation Zorgnet-Icuro, there is not much logic behind the rule. "When visiting your grandfather in a residential care home, it is not necessary, but if you go to visit an aunt in hospital, it is required." As time goes on, visitors understand the rule less and less, making it increasingly difficult to enforce.

Communication is hindered

This is echoed by Frank Vermassen, the chief physician at UZ Gent, but there are more reasons besides the lack of logic: "The masks hinder communication between doctor and patient," Vermassen said. Without being able to fully use or see facial expressions, important explanations are misunderstood. According to the UZ Gent physician, three years after the first lockdown was put in place is about time to let go of the long-standing regulation of face masks.

Primary care practitioners stand with hospitals in support of their frustration. "We must not fall into mask fatigue," said Jeroen van den Brandt of general practitioners' association Domus Medica. "The measure must be used proportionally."

Flemish Minister of Welfare Hilde Crevits understands the points raised by healthcare providers to abolish masks in hospitals in Flanders, and announced on Friday that she intends to raise the issue at the Interministerial Conference (IMC) Public Health on 22 March.

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"Wearing a mask has certainly had its benefits and, in case of high virus circulation or other situations, a mouth mask may still be advisable," Crevits said."But it is a justified request from the healthcare sector, the mouth mask should not make communication between the patient, visitor and doctor more difficult."

As for residential care centres and nursing homes in Flanders, "the guidelines will be fine-tuned next week in order to adapt them after the IMC's decision," minister Crevits concluded.

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