At the last minute, midwives miss out on a hard-fought investment that was supposed to boost low wages in the sector. Sector federation VBOV warns of a massive wave of deconvention, which threatens to make the much-needed services of midwives unaffordable for many.
With a view to the 2024 federal budget, an agreement was reached on a budget proposal among representatives of the health insurance funds and the healthcare sector at the beginning of October. Everyone got a share of the pie and the midwives could count on 7 million. Unexpectedly, however, the General Council, which also includes representatives of the government, canceled that amount.
The Flemish Professional Organization of Midwives (VBOV) speaks of a blow that no one saw coming. “This was a negotiated concept note for which approval by the General Council should have been a formality,” says chairman Marlene Reyns. “The money would give the sector oxygen again.”
In concrete terms, the 7 million in additional resources had to go towards better remuneration for consultations after day five of a baby’s birth.
“The first days after the birth are better reimbursed, but for consultations after day 5 you only get 39 euros gross per hour,” explains Sarah Vanden Bremt of Wheel of Care, a collaboration between midwives and nurses who offer home care in and around Brussels. .
“A home visit must therefore take at least an hour and then you still have to drive there. This means that midwives quickly have to make around seven consultations a day, which is good for nine to ten hours of work, to make ends meet.”
A higher allowance was supposed to provide relief and provide more space during consultations and less stress. The VBOV fears that the fact that additional resources from the budget have not yet been forthcoming threatens to be the final straw for many to quit or deconvention. “We are receiving massive signals from our members of severe disappointment, powerlessness and anger,” says Reyns. “Many midwives are dropping out and last year 10 percent of our supporters disengaged in search of a correct, living wage.”
“Many midwives are dropping out and last year 10 percent of our supporters disengaged in search of a correct, living wage.”
However, such deconvention is not without consequences. “In major cities and certainly in Brussels, you have a high population of people in precarious situations and without hospitalization insurance or membership of a health insurance fund,” Vanden Bremt explains. “They are in danger of no longer being able to pay the higher rates of deconventional midwives because less is also reimbursed.”
For many midwives, the choice is no longer to help these people or to struggle to make ends meet themselves.
On Wednesday, the VBOV launched a social media campaign called #vroedvrouwenindeshit, asking supporters to post a photo of a dirty diaper to reinforce their demand with policymakers.
A petition also received more than 3,500 signatures and around 1,700 people expressed their support in the comments. “The help, information and assistance of a midwife are essential for a newborn baby and a woman who has recently given birth,” says an indignant mother.
In the meantime, the VBOV has started negotiating again with the government about the subsidies, promising to reconsider the arguments of the midwives. At the same time, however, the end of November deadline is approaching for midwives to indicate whether they will deconvention next year.
In Belgium, 87 percent of midwives are still certified, but that could change quickly. “I think many will wait until the deadline to see whether the VBOV can pull anything out of the fire,” says Vanden Brempt.
This article is originally published on bruzz.be