Trade Council ‘Health Services’ addresses staff shortages in the sector in Europe

On May 23 CESI’s members’ trade council ‘Health services’ convened in Brussels for its annual meeting to discuss future priorities of healthcare provision in the Member States of the EU. A major concern shared by CESI health care trade union members from Spain, Germany, France and the Netherlands as well as EU accession candidate countries such as Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro concerned shortages of medical staff.

According to the members of the trade council, measures to meet growing health care demands in the light of public budgetary constraints and ageing populations remain a necessity in many EU member states. In this context, representatives of healthcare trade unions of CESI from Spain (SATSE), Germany (dbb/komba) and Netherlands (CNV-Connectief) presented strategies to address staff shortages in the provision of health care.

A recent study conducted by the Spanish member organisation SATSE highlights the common work overload of nurses in Spain, a country with a 15/1 patient/nurse ratio in hospitals (typical ratios in other countries: between 6/1 and 8/1) and a 5/1000 nurse/inhabitant ratio (European average: 8.8/1000). CESI believes that more studies should carried out to establish concrete demands as to ideal nurse ratios.

According to the CESI member dbb/komba, a major problem in Germany relates to an overall pressure on health care staff, due to a combination of increasing care demands, low investments in personnel and insufficient funding in addition to a lack of available skilled nursing staff. An improved attractiveness of employment in the sector through better working conditions, along with more effective recruitment and retention measures remain key could be a part of a solution to reduce this pressure, according to the dbb/komba. While Germany has meanwhile adopted an ‘immigration law’ to enable the recruitment of 3000 third country nationals by the end of 2019, training plays an important role for job mobility and for the return of qualified personnel to the sector.

In the Netherlands, forecasts predict a growing shortage of healthcare professionals of up to 125 000 unfilled vacancies during the next three years. CESI’s Dutch member CNV-Conncetief will therefore focus on the prevention of staff outflows by increasing the competitiveness of health care providers -for instance through VAT exemptions for health care delivery and a reduction of administrative burdens- and by improved working environments through more inclusive work cultures and consultations of staff and greater investments in the sector.

Further reports from Bosnia and Herzegovina from CESI’s member Trade Union of Physicians in Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina (SSDMRS) and CESI’s French affiliate ‘Autonomous Public Service Federation’ (FA-FP) confirmed trenda to focus on building health infrastructure while disregarding the human factor.

In a position paper it adopted after the debate, the trade council members urge decision makers to boost investment in the healthcare sector and to consider the fundamental importance of the human factor in the delivery of health care services.

Picture: Trade council President Esther Reyes Diez and CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger © CESI 2019