Belgium National OT News

News from Belgium, 2017

Let us start this newsletter with a brief explanation of the organisation of the occupational therapy associations in Belgium. Belgium is a federally organised country. The governance with respect to health care is split between the federal governments and the regional Flemish (Dutch speaking) and Wallonian (French-speaking) governments. The system is complex and therefore the professional associations for occupational therapy are organised regionally and not federally. The Wallonian association is called Union Professionelle des Ergothérapeutes (UPE) (this was formally the Association des Ergothérapeutes or AE) and in the Flemish region, we have the Vlaams Ergotherapeutenverbond (VE). These two organisations form the FNBE (French acronym)-NBFE (Dutch acronym). We work together for all federal and international issues, therefore some projects are organised differently, but through continued collaboration, we strive to create the same vision and identity for occupational therapy in Belgium. The language differences are something that adds to our diversity and we don’t see it as a problem.

Below you will find the latest “hot off the press” items, which both associations are busy with. We also invite you all to visit our websites and if you have any difficulty with understanding our languages then please ask, we would be happy to help.

Last year, the Belgium government started several reform-projects concerning Public Health governance, ideology and organization. All these reforms will greatly affect the way in which occupational therapists work in the coming years. These are important challenges that appeal to us, which will also create new opportunities…

  • The reform of hospital finance: To increase the efficiency of the use of financial resources, the number of hospital beds will be reduced and more resources will be used in transmural and home health care. The number of jobs may decrease in hospitals in favour of the increase in jobs in transmural and home health care.
  • The e-health plan: In the next three years, all health professionals will have to establish a professional electronic file that will be linked to a national e-health platform. The first electronic occupational therapists file has already been designed: this will be tested by a pilot group in the field in the next few months.
  • Integrated care for chronically ill persons: In order to cope with the rapidly increasing number of chronically ill citizens, the Belgian government wants to address the effectiveness of the care itself. Multimorbidity is a serious challenge for the medical world, which necessitates a switch from a medical to a bio-psycho-social model. This is good news for the holistic thinking and working occupational therapists!
  • The reform of the law regulating the status and implementation of health professions: The current (old) law governing the implementation of health professions is based on a pyramidal hierarchy between care professions, with on top of the all-deciding physician and at the bottom of the “supportive professions” such as the occupational therapist. Our health minister, who herself is a physician, wants to turn this system into a work organization based on the competencies of healthcare providers. That is really revolutionary. Basic principles include quality of care, interdisciplinary collaboration, lifelong learning, client-centred care … That’s real music to the ears of occupational therapists.
  • Primary and home health care reform: All the projects mentioned above require a thorough reform of home health care. The government wants to shift the focus of public health from hospitals and institutions to primary and home health care. The territory (initially Dutch-speaking Flanders) will be subdivided into home health care areas, where care will be integrated and interdisciplinary organized around the citizen with a need for care. Currently, occupational therapists are not well represented in primary and home health care, for political and financial reasons alone (we do not have enough power in a pyramidal system …). The government finally begins to understand that occupational therapists are very effective and particularly in primary and home health care.

The professional associations have had a lot of consultations with the government, and many more to come.

This report has been made by Pierre Seeuws (president FNBE-NBFE) Marc-Eric Guisset (vice-president FNBE-NBFE), Thomas Otte (UPE), Marlies Suetens (VE), Mike Jarrey (VE)

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