More and more Dutch-speaking doctors, but not everywhere

The number of Dutch-speaking doctors in Brussels is increasing. In four years, the number of members of the Brussels GP constituency (BHAK) has increased from 95 to 139. But since doctors are often active in the same municipalities, this growth does not solve the shortage of GPs everywhere.

A few years ago, it was basically said that there were very few Dutch-speaking GPs in Brussels. Retired doctors have not been replaced enough. A 2018 Health and Welfare Observatory study also pointed to a problem that affected the entire GP population: A number of neighborhoods have real shortages, no matter what the doctor’s language.

On the Dutch-speaking side, there is an improvement now, according to the numbers we asked. The number of members of the Brussels Grand Prix circuit (BHAK) has grown steadily in recent years, from 95 in 2017 to 139 in 2021. An increase of almost half.

The department explains the increase, among other things, by the greater number of practical trainers within the BHAK. These are the physicians who supervise GPs in training (Haio). Many practical trainers, and this also means many new young doctors, who often continue to work in the area after their training. 21 of the members were Haio last year, while there were only 12 in 2017.

Brussels’ attractiveness also plays a role, BHAK believes. “When I was a doctor in training in 2001, he would regularly ask me what I was looking for in Brussels,” Van Houst recalls. “Today, young doctors consciously choose to live in the city.”

Hardly in Uccle or Watermael-Boitsfort

Thus, the increase in the number of members does not mean the disappearance of the shortage of general practitioners on the Dutch-speaking side. After all, doctors are distributed unevenly on the territory of Brussels. “In municipalities such as Watermael-Boitsfort or Uccle there are hardly anyone and in Woluwes only a few doctors over the age of 65,” says Hicham Vanborm, BHAK Coordinator. “In Anderlecht we have about twenty members.”

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Moreover, Dutch-speaking doctors are also popular among non-Dutch speaking patients. “They often have a different approach than French-speaking doctors, who more quickly refer to a specialist,” Vanburgh explains. “But the result is that new Dutch-speaking patients can’t always come to them.”

BHAK is the only monolingual group of general practitioners in Brussels. The larger FBHAV has more members. They are predominantly French-speaking, but the department also has a few Dutch-speaking members. “We may have about ten native speakers, but also over a hundred bilingual doctors, most of whom have gone on to teach Dutch,” notes Chairman Michel de Volder. “This number is also rising, just as Dutch language instruction is becoming more and more popular.”

Support request

There is currently no immediate solution in sight for the uneven distribution of Dutch-speaking physicians. “With Impulseo, there is an installation premium in Brussels, but that does not take into account the language,” Vanhooste laments. The BHAK chief hopes that in the future there will be support in the search for workplaces in neighborhoods where there are few Dutch-speaking GPs. “Municipalities can help with this, for example.”

In the meantime, the Brussels Health and Welfare Observatory is working on a new study that will better define the general practitioners’ view, as it turned out last week at the Flemish Community Commission Board, where Selgee van Escher (N-VA) asked a question to delegated board member Elke . Van den Brandt (Green). This study also takes into account the language of the doctor this time. Results are not immediately available.

Megan Vasquez

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