A guard of honor of nursing staff which borders both sides of the road. And when the Belgian Prime Minister's convoy arrives, these same health professionals ... who turn their backs on official cars. Nurses, doctors, logistics assistants, cleaning staff and other administrative staff from Saint-Pierre hospital in Brussels marked the occasion, Saturday, May 16, to welcome Sophie Wilmès who visited this CHU as well as the Chirec-Delta hospital for show support for health care staff.

- The carers of Saint Pierre hospital turn their backs on Sophie Wilmès, Belgian Prime Minister, during his unofficial visit of May 16, 2020 #brussels #belgique #hopital #wilmes # COVID19 #nurse pic.twitter.com/MJubo1mGB9

- Marin Driguez (@Marindriguez) May 16, 2020

These health professionals - who were one hundred to participate in this symbolic action, according to the Belgian union CGSP - have turned their backs on the head of the Belgian government "like the politicians who turn their backs on our calls for help", reported the 24-hour news channel LN24.

At the end of the day on Saturday, the Prime Minister tweeted several photos of her unofficial trip to the two hospitals, accompanied by this text: "The visits to the Chirec-Delta and Saint-Pierre hospitals were a moment of meeting , important dialogue for [the] nursing staff as for me. Health situation, protections, mental load, promotion of the profession, financing of health care, no subject was left out. "

Budget cuts in health areas

As in France, where caregivers on the front line faced with the Covid-19 pandemic do not feel heard by political leaders regarding their demands, Belgian caregivers have had to fight in recent weeks, while the country has more than 9,000 died from the new coronavirus.

"Politicians constantly turn their backs on us when they cry for help," a participant in the symbolic hedge of honor told RTBF on Saturday. "The teams are under-staffed and the burn-out rates demonstrate this. We are asking that the profession be upgraded and that the team count be revised upwards."

According to LN24, Saturday's protest was also motivated against budget cuts in the health care field, when Sophie Wilmès was Federal Budget Minister - between September 2015 and October 2019.

In an interview given in October 2016 to the BX1 chain, Sophie Wilmès justified new savings measures, in particular concerning Belgian hospitals [from 8'30 in the interview]: "At hospital level, what does "We also demonstrate, it is the absolute necessity to make there more efficiency", she explained. "We notice that there is an overcapacity in the offer and that to be able to offer the same level of care and quality, we could organize ourselves differently."

This reform of hospitals, which must "rationalize" the existing system - because "there are too many beds in Belgium", according to the secretary general of the Christian Mutuality Jean Hermesse -, started in January 2020.

Contested royal decrees, a long awaited "white coats" fund

Other reasons for the dissatisfaction of Belgian healthcare workers are put forward. The recent publication, on May 6, of two royal decrees is notably targeted, as reported by the RTBF. One provides the possibility of requisitioning health personnel if necessary in the context of the fight against Covid-19, the other relates to the extension of the delegation of medical procedures to other healthcare professionals. health. Both "are contested by nursing staff", according to the Belgian unions Setca, CGSP and CNE.

Health professionals are also waiting to know what will become of the "white coats" fund adopted by the House of Representatives at the end of 2019. This fund, which must be financed up to 400 million euros per year, is a financial response to the demands of the nurses, who have expressed their fed up every Tuesday since June 2019. But a representative of the CNE union fears that this fund is used more to "refinance the hospital" rather than " improve staff working conditions. "

Saturday, the Belgian Prime Minister met with representatives of the action of the guard of honor in front of the Saint-Pierre hospital, exchange after which she wanted to send a message of appeasement. According to RTBF, she said: "I think there is an 'after Covid' and no one can pretend that they did not understand or feel the distress of the nurses, who were already there before the crisis and who increased with the difficulties […] I cannot imagine that the post-crisis period will be reduced to what it was before. "

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