Health Unions discussed lessons learnt so far from the pandemic and preparedness of the EU for health emergencies

EPSU Standing committee on health and social services

(12 May 2021) On May 11 EPSU organised an additional Standing Committee on Health and Social Services. The members of the Committee met to discuss the position document on the lessons learnt so far from the pandemic and the preparedness of the EU health and social care sector for future emergencies. Among other things, the position document states that:

 “It is paramount to learn the lessons from the pandemic and not repeat the mistakes driven by neoliberal ideologies leading to privatization and austerity measures which weakened our health and social care systems and resulted in making them unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. For years EPSU and its affiliates raised the issue of the catastrophic effects of privatization and austerity measures on health and social services, insufficient investment, inadequate level of staffing or inadequate protection or implementation of the OSH regulations The pandemic has also demonstrated that publicly-owned, not-for-profit health and social care services in many European countries were better prepared to efficiently cope with major health crises and, most importantly, ensure accessibility for all citizens.

Recognizing that health and care are public good, more than ever we need to ensure that everyone, regardless of their status, can enjoy equal access to quality healthcare. And quality healthcare can be only delivered with adequately staffed needs-oriented services, and adequately paid workers protected from OSH risks, workers enjoying full representation by their trade unions.

We need to ensure that the existing international, European and countries commitments and regulations guaranteeing those rights are properly enforced and do not only stay on paper. To guarantee those rights we need to ensure that healthcare is delivered by adequately financed, needs-oriented public services.

We need to ensure that the EU and countries allocate sufficient levels of funding in their budgets for the healthcare workers including their training.

We need to make certain that trade unions are represented on the European and national regulatory bodies in relation to resilience and preparedness polices.”

Furthermore, the Standing Committee debated on the importance of supporting and improving working conditions of Health Care Assistants. Members reflected on the successful Health Care Assistants Seminar which was held on the 14 April, and the Committee endorsed establishing a Network of Health Care Assistants.  The Network aims, among other things, to support affiliates organising this area which is important for the functioning of the health and social care systems, and which made EPSU the voice of Health Care Assistants on the EU level.

Taking into account the possible impact of the UK withdrawal from the EU on the health and care sector, Benhard Zaglmayer from the European Commission (DG Grow) gave a presentation which informed the members on the Consequences of BREXIT for the recognition of qualifications of health professionals.

The Committee also discussed the stand of negotiations with employers in the hospital sector (HOSPEEM) on the updating of the Framework of Action on Recruitment and Retention.

Finally, the members of the Committee were updated on EPSU’s engagement in supporting the Waiver on the IPR for the COVID-19 vaccine and the participation in the European People’s Initiative Right to Cure, which so far collected approx. 200 000 signatures of out 1 million needed.

Link to Right to Cure:

Final position on the lessons learnt from pandemic:  EN / FR / ES / DE / RU / SV