'A historic first' for Dutch Junior Doctors

Dutch Junior Doctors organized one of the biggest protests in the Netherlands against the introduction of an annual contribution for their medical training.

Ever seen well over 1.000 Dutch medical specialists in training [“Aios”] at the same time at the place? No? Well, apparently you were somewhere else on August 22 when Leyden University Hospital [LUMC] welcomed this huge crowd, and angry at that - or at least annoyed - protesting against plans of a couple of ministries to introduce an annual contribution by the Aios of € 13.400 to their training.

In co-operation with its counterparts, EJD partners LAD and LVAG protested vigorously. They went to parliament, drafted and signed petitions and took their arguments to a very receptive environment.

The € 13.400 affair

Mrs Edith Schippers, the Dutch secretary for Health Services [VWS], invited to speak at this meeting, didn’t waste any time to make her case. Awaiting the general elections on September 12 - which most likely will bring in a different coalition government - she emphasized that now she ‘only’ was the acting secretary and not representing the cabinet.

Moreover Mrs Schippers made it clear that, before the current cabinet lost its parliamentary majority, the

€ 13.400 had never been on its agenda. “If I’d be a member of the new cabinet I would never propose such a measure. And if I’d be MP I would never support it.” Hesitant the audience in the overcrowded university halls started to applaud. Polite, yet reserved....

Did this satisfy the young doctors? Perhaps - a bit. It’s election time and especially then, but also afterwards, politicians not always put the money where their mouth is. But, for the time being, strengthened by parties  from both aisles, the € 13.400 extravaganza is of the table (on which it formally had never been, according to Edith Schippers).

All’s well that ends well?

So, all is well that ends well? You can’t be too careful and, besides, another proposal of the working group of the ministries was embraced cautiously by the [current] secretary. This proposal deals with lowering the maximum duration of specialist training in the Netherlands to the European average. Which would mean: cutting short most schemes by one to two years. As one of the “Aios” present said: “That idea is as ludicrous as the € 13.400 balloon”. This seemed pretty much the opinion of all colleagues who confronted Mrs Schippers with their concerns about its consequenes. Yet she stood her ground.

Still a battle to be fought!

The medical profession in the Netherlands strongly believes that one of the reasons for the enviable quality of our health care is the way in which doctors are trained to become outstanding professionals, leading in their fields. This shouldn’t be wasted by ill-conceived financial reasoning!

But, for now, let’s wait and see. First things first. After September 12, and most likely months after that since cabinets in the Netherlands are not formed easily, we may have to mobilize our membership again. “A historic first” could then be followed by an even stronger “Historic 2nd”.

Be prepared. We’ll keep you posted.