Leaked healthcare agreement pulls funding from community care, general practitioners
The Ministry of Public Health, Welfare, and Sports is in talks with healthcare parties to reach an Integrated Healthcare Agreement. A draft agreement contains proposals to shift healthcare expenditure, sources confirmed after reports of a leak by Zorgvisie. Among the proposals are plans to take 600 million euros away from community care and 80 million intended for general practitioner care and invest it elsewhere.
Government sources emphasize that these are not austerity measures but to limit the growth in expenditure. The money taken from parts of the sector will remain in the healthcare sector. They added that the available budget for community nursing and GP care had not been entirely spent for years. In addition, agreements are being made to limit the growth of healthcare costs.
"We fell off our chair," in reaction to the leaked draft, said a spokesperson for the professional association for nurses and carers, V&VN. "We're extremely surprised at what's in it," the spokesperson said about the money that was shifted around in the plan. “We had expected investments.”
A spokeswoman for the national association for general practitioners, LHV, confirmed that the care agreement states that the budget for GP care will be decreased. “The reason, according to the Ministry, is that it has been a few years since the entire budget has been spent. That is due to the health insurers. They leave money on the shelf.” She added that despite the decrease, the GP care budget is still increasing by 1.2 billion euros over the next four years. The LHV still wants guarantees that the money taken for their budget will be spent and spent well.
"The demand for care in the neighborhood is growing. This is due to an aging population, but also due to two other factors. On the one hand, patients are discharged from hospital earlier, so that care goes to the neighbourhoods. On the other hand, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the elderly to enter a nursing home, which means they have to be cared for in the neighborhood for longer. So the cutbacks are not in line with the course that is being sailed in the Netherlands," the V&VN spokesperson said.
The Integrated Care Agreement must ensure that new agreements are made for the entire sector. The parties involved will continue to discuss this in the coming weeks and hope to reach a final agreement in September. The available budget for, among other things, neighborhood care has not been spent in full for years, the Ministry of Health said.
But the question is whether the past coronavirus years are representative of the expenditure, said V&VN. "Moreover: you can only drive things on macro figures, but does that mean that we will no longer provide care for all kinds of people in the future?"
Opposition parties are extremely critical of the leaked draft plans. PvdA leader Attje Kuiken spoke of “worrying reports.” According to SP MP Maarten Hijink, this is absolutely an “austerity agreement.” “Idiotic, of course, if you look at the major problems we already have,” the socialist said.
The professional organization for carers and nurses NU’91 is also critical, saying that the leaked proposals will only lead to more significant staff shortages in community care. “The staff shortage is a major problem, we already see that, “a spokeswoman said on Tuesday. “The problem will only get worse. That is why we have to invest now.”
Many community care organizations already can’t take on new clients because they don’t have space or staff, said the spokeswoman. “Of course, there is a bag of money that needs to be divided. But then put the money where the problems are. You need more and more people at the bedside, that’s the problem.”
Reporting by ANP