An estimated 4,000 people took part in a static demonstration in Brussels on Sunday to call for increased government spending on health care.
However the event was marred by clashes between some demonstrators and police.
The demonstration had been approved in advance by the city of Brussels, provided that those taking part respected the sanitary measures in force: masks to be worn at all times, social distancing, and demonstrators organised into groups of 400 – the limit for events held outdoors.
The demonstration was attended by all sectors of the health care sector, according to the VRT: doctors, nurses and midwives, but also patients, support staff, physiotherapists, social workers and firefighters.
According to Pierre Sasse, a doctor and generalist and one of the organisers of the demonstration, the sector has been calling for the same things for 10 years, their appeals falling on deaf ears.
The Covid-19 pandemic has thrust the problems in the sector to the fore, and revealed the lack of essentials that workers have been describing for so long. And the response continues to be insufficient.
“There are €600 million euros now on the table. That is one answer but it is not enough for several reasons,” he said. “It plays around with working conditions and salary increases, which are two very important themes but not the only ones.”
The €600 million, he said, would barely cover the cost of one extra nurse for every service for every shift. Whereas the chronic and universal shortage of staff costs lives.
“In reality, there are people dying for lack of staff, and it is up to care-givers to bear the responsibility for these terrible accidents, which would be avoidable if we could add staff and offer proper working hours, to be more with patients and respond to their requests,” he said.
The demonstration was due to start at 13.00, on the Mont des Arts and around the Central Station – the usual starting point for demonstrations.
Later, at around 15.30, some of those attending decided to move on, but the rule was that the demonstration had to be static – more of a meeting than a march.
“Several small groups tried to continue the demonstration and relaunch the procession,” said a police spokesperson.
“That led to minor incidents, nothing serious. However, we had to intervene more firmly in the Rue de la Régence, where 32 people were subject to administrative arrest and three to judicial arrest because of their resistance.”