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French-speaking doctor quota exceeded again

A doctor's consultation may soon cost just €4. Credit: Pixabay

Hundreds of students were admitted to medical school, despite a federal quota intended to regulate the number of doctors in order to stabilise the job market, according to reporting from De Standaard.

This year, more than 1,100 students were allowed to start medical training in the French Community, more than double the maximum allowed number of 505, the Dutch-language newspaper reported.

The exceeding of quotas has become a source of anxiety for candidate doctors who see their job prospects becoming more precarious.

“For the umpteenth time, too many students are admitted to the medical training programme, with the federal legislation simply being ignored by the French Community,” Jonas Brouwers, chairman of the Flemish Association of Specialised Doctors in Training (VASO), told De Standaard.

The unequal intake has also been a point of tension when it comes to cooperation between the different language communities in Belgium.

Every year, the French-speaking community admits more students to dental schools than Flanders, despite the quota imposed by the federal level.

Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Vooruit) promised to work out a responsibility mechanism by the beginning of 2022 that should limit the French-speaking intake, but it isn’t ready yet.

Vandenbroucke’s cabinet did not want to comment on the figures, De Standaard said.

A spokesperson for Valérie Glatigny (MR), Minister of Higher Education in the French Community Government, justified the influx by pointing out some ‘peculiarities’ of the student population, including the large number of applicants from France.

While French-speaking, the spokesperson said these students plan to return to France after completion of their studies, and therefore wouldn’t have an impact on the Belgian job market for medical professionals.

A planning committee assisted by an ‘inter-federal advisory body’ as part of a coalition agreement will examine the issue.

This body must determine quotas that are “adapted to the objectively defined needs of each [language] community.”

The French Community has organised an entrance exam since 2017, and Flanders has done so since 1997.

Each year, around 1,500 students are supposed to begin medical studies, with approximately 1,000 of those being Flemish and 500 French-speaking.

VASO’s Brouwers told De Standaard that medical students today worry about being able to find a job after graduation.

“Those who do get a place as a doctor would be encouraged by the oversupply to have more tests done per patient,” said Brouwers.

“You’re going to motivate doctors to do more tests per patient if the pie is smaller for everyone.”

He also said that the imbalance threatens the quality of education, as training components like internships, bedside teaching and exposure to clinical pictures are becoming more difficult to organise for a larger group of people.

The problem seems to be getting worse: this year, the number of medical candidates broke all records with 6,274 people taking the admission test at least once.

This is also due in part to the large number of foreigners from the Netherlands and France taking part.

Half of test takers were listed as ‘non-residents’.

The Brussels Times

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