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Police break-up doctors’ protest at Parliament; Cabinet looking for work pressure solutions

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Police stopped a protest organized by general practitioners at the Binnenhof on Friday afternoon. The police sent away the group of several hundred demonstrators who were already standing in the parliament complex. After ten minutes, part of the group left the location.

Near there, hundreds demonstrated on Friday afternoon at the Malieveld, where the activists drew attention to the work pressure doctors face in general practice offices. Health Minister Ernst Kuipers was supposed to visit the demonstration, but he was unable to be present because the regular weekly meeting of ministers ran long.

Hundreds of demonstrators then went to the Binnenhof to speak with Kuipers. The demonstrators shouted, “Where is Ernst?” and, “We are an emergency.”

After the Council of Ministers meeting, Kuipers came out and spoke with a delegation from the activists. “’A GP for everyone,’ is the message we have conveyed, and which has been embraced,” said one of the GPs from the delegation after the conversation. The general practitioners will have another conversation with the minister at a later date.

Health Minister Ernst Kuipers and Medical Care Minister Conny Helder made no promises, but said they will look for ways to reduce the workload and regulatory pressure together with the general practitioners

The doctors and their workers have been required to carry out more and more tasks, which means that there is less time left for patients, they argued. Kuipers said he is looking into how health insurers and municipalities can tackle this problem. Consultation with municipalities is also important, for example to arrange facilities for general practitioners. The residents also benefit from this, emphasized Kuipers. These kinds of measures can already help in the short term, “not tomorrow, but in the coming months,” he said.

The protest on the Malieveld drew GPs, doctor’s assistants and nurse practitioners. General practitioners have reached the limit of what they can handle, according to the National Association of General Practitioners (LHV)

Many protesters were dressed in white shirts that showed the number of patients they care for, such as “At night 202,000 patients on my own.” Banners depicted slogans such as, “Too much pain in primary care,” and, “I worry about tomorrow’s care.” Signs also included text, like, “Do you have a moment? We don’t!” and, “Help! The GP is drowning.” Some people carried a purple crocodile with them, which is considered a symbol of bureaucracy.

During the demonstration, Aard Verdaasdonk from the LHV demanded a resolution to the youth care and hospital waiting lists. “We are the gatekeeper. We would like to stay that way, but then the gate has to open.”

“Unlike Schiphol, healthcare cannot cancel flights,” said one GP in the Antilles who recorded a video message.

David Baden, president of the Dutch Association of Emergency Medicine Doctors (NVSHA), praised the general practitioners and expressed his support for their practices. “We stand on the shoulders of giants.”

The two ministers, Kuipers and Helder, apologized that they could not come to the Malieveld because of the Council of Ministers. The meeting lasted longer than usual on Friday.

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