Tackling multiple challenges for healthcare workers together

Having been confronted with a year in which the Coronavirus pandemic asked a lot of mental strength and resilience from healthcare workers, the representatives of European trade unions discussed the problems related with the Covid-19 crisis as well as the general situation of the healthcare sector in European countries in a seminar via videoconference on 11 February 2021. Title of the seminar was “Tackling multiple challenges for healthcare workers together”. It was organized by EUROFEDOP (Europese Federatie van het Overheidspersoneel) with the support of EZA and of the European Union.

The representatives of the participating trade unions welcomed the establishment of the new EU4Health Programme that has the aim of making the EU member states more capable of dealing with future crises such as the Covid-19 crisis, but also underlined the need for transparency and a proper follow-up to the use of funds with the execution of the programme.

On the one hand, the Coronavirus crisis has made the countries aware that there is a need for acting together, but also that it will be difficult to bring all member states aboard when it comes to changing the Treaty with a view to implementing minimum standards of healthcare and minimum wages for the healthcare staff. The EU has some power through article 168, but it is still the member states which have the final power when it comes to regulating their healthcare sector.

The digital transformation of the healthcare sector was another item discussed by the participants. The working environment is changing and this also affects the healthcare sector. More and more, mobile devices are being used in the treatment of patients and technological developments make it necessary for healthcare staff to constantly train themselves.

A representative of the medical technology industry participated in the meeting and stated that industry and trade unions have more or less the same goal in trying to find out what the future profile of the healthcare worker will look like. After all, it is the healthcare worker who will teach industry what the needs are in the field of the treatment of patients.

Digital transformation is not only a requirement for the healthcare sector, trade unions have to also adapt themselves and make their transition to the digital age. Cooperation at international level can be an incentive for trade unions to accelerate their entrance into the digital era.

In order to tackle problems in healthcare, no country can do this on its own, cooperation across borders has become a necessity. In order to deal effectively with shortages and the changing tasks of healthcare staff, a proper planning of the healthcare workforce in the future will be needed. Consequently, the participants and Eurofedop as host organisation regretted that, in some European countries, a proper strategy of the nursing profession is still missing and leads to nurses choosing to leave the country and work abroad.