Sizable shortage of geriatric physicians, says KCE

Summary

According to the Belgian Health Care Knowledge Centre, Belgium’s elderly are suffering from a shortage of specialised geriatric medical professionals

More training needed

Belgium has a significant shortage of geriatric doctors and nurses, according to a new report published by the Belgian Health Care Knowledge Centre (KCE). Geriatrics focuses on health care for the elderly. KCE is calling for measures to recruit more medical professionals to the speciality.

The report evaluated the “intern geriatric liaison teams,” which were established a decade ago. The teams are tasked with caring for the increasing number of elderly patients who cannot be accommodated in the specialised geriatric departments of hospitals – the so-called G beds.

KCE determined that the teams are often too small to handle the workload. “Certainly not all risk patients receive the support of a liaison team,” the report stated. “The professionals confirmed unanimously that the demand for geriatric care greatly exceeds the available human resources and the allocated budget.”

The organisation concluded there is a general shortage of geriatric medical professionals in the country. There should be, it said, about 20 new staff in the sector every year to keep up with demand. Between 2010 and 2013, only 28 new geriatricians were added to the system.

KCE advised more training for the speciality and the establishment of a platform to exchange practical experiences. It also recommended investments that would guarantee that geriatric patients could be treated in other departments of hospitals and even outside the hospitals. Finally, KCE said that more attention should be devoted to the evaluation of the quality of geriatric care.

Photo courtesy UCI UC Irvine

Health-care system

The health-care system is federally organised in Belgium. Competing health insurance providers and a proportional contribution-based system ensure that healthcare is accessible to virtually all citizens and costs remain relatively low.
Law - From the age of 25, Belgian citizens and residents – both employees and those self-employed – are legally obliged to have health insurance.
Insurance providers - The mutualiteiten or mutual insurance associations are typically Christian, liberal, socialist or independent.
Services - Refunds are given for services such as doctor’s consultations, prescribed medication and hospital care costs.
1 945

national health-care system is born

13

percent of salary employees contribute to social security

50

to 75% of healthcare costs reimbursed by mutuality