Rotterdam may soon introduce smoke-free streets

Rotterdam is set become the first city in the Netherlands to introduce smoke-free streets, the AD reported on Friday The ban will cover two streets which are shared by the Erasmus Medical Centre, the Erasmiaans Gymnasium school and the Hogeschool Rotterdam college. Rather than tackling the problem on their own and risking driving away smokers to their neighbours’ premises, the three institutions joined forces and wrote a letter to the council asking for a total ban on smoking in the nearby streets. ‘Cigarette ends everywhere are a nuisance and we must consider the health of 30,000 students, pupils and patients and staff who are here every day,’ Agmet Olgun of Hogeschool Rotterdam told the paper. According to the council’s policy department, it is likely the ban will soon be in place. ‘Rotterdam is at the forefront of anti-smoking measures,’ a spokesman for the department said. If approved Rotterdam would be the first city to introduce smoke-free streets. According to Tom Voeten of anti-smoking organisation Clean Air Now, only Groningen and Amstelveen have included smoking bans in their bye-laws but not for entire streets. ‘Rotterdam would be a first,’ he told the paper. Not smoking in public spaces, such as streets, is a question of changing one habit for another, Olgun said. ‘People used to smoke in the work place. Now no one even thinks of lighting up there. Not smoking is the new norm. A much-used shelter for smokers at the Erasmus Medical Centre will go as well. The centre did not want to say if it will come back in another place, the AD writes.  More >

Medics oppose use of dead men's sperm

Dutch gynaecologists and embryologists are opposed in principle to inseminating women with sperm from a dead or comatose partner, the Volkskrant reports. The associations for gynaecologists and embryologists state their view in a guideline document about the dilemmas they are confronted with and which health minister Hugo de Jonge had requested in view of the rapid developments in reproductive technology. Parliament is discussing medical ethics on Thursday. The guideline, which is not binding, states that doctors should be ‘very reticent’ when asked for a procedure involving a dead man’s sperm, ‘especially if there is no written consent from the person in question’. ‘We think the interests of the deceased have to be protected,’ gynaecologist Annemiek Nap told the paper. According to Nap it happens sporadically that women want a child when their husbands die unexpectedly. ‘They might say: my husband would have wanted this. But if he has not given his consent in writing beforehand you never know whether that was really what he would have wanted. In that case the most logical step would have been to freeze his semen while he was still alive.’ Posthumous sperm retrieval is not illegal in the Netherlands and in principle women who have been refused insemination can take the sperm abroad, where rules may be different. Other ways of posthumous reproductive techniques are used in the Netherland, such as using sperm or eggs that have been frozen previously with the express intent, which has to be confirmed in writing, that the tissue can be used after death. According to Nap this happens one to a few times a year, the Volkskrant writes.  More >

Government won't ban 'suicide powder'

Chemical substances such as the ‘suicide powder’ recommended by euthanasia cooperative Laatste Wil, will not be banned, health minister Hugo de Jonge has said in a letter to parliament. De Jonge says a ban would be complicated, ineffective and would put the names of the substances in the public domain, which is what he wants to avoid. Some of the substances, moreover, are beneficial in low dosages, the minister said. De Jonge he wants to ‘up the threshold’ for the use of chemicals for suicidal purposes and calls on the chemicals sector to ‘self-regulate’. The sale of chemical substances to private individuals and attempts to buy the chemicals abroad will be monitored as well. In April this year a 19 year-old women killed herself after buying a powder on the internet but her supplier is not thought to be the cooperative. The health minister said at the time the death was ‘extremely worrying’.  More >

Protest over 'crisis' in youth care

More than 2,500 youth support workers are staging a demonstration in The Hague on Monday calling on the government to provide extra funding and reduce their administrative burden. Protesters held up boards with the names of children and teenagers who are missing out on essential support because of the pressure on the sector. Health minister Hugo de Jonge has already rejected a plea by unions to provide €750 million extra to address the problem. Youth worker Niekie Warnaar told RTV Rijnmond that urgent cases were being held up because of a lack of funding. 'To cite one glaring example: a 15-year-old homeless girl who I can't find a bed for the night because of all the bureaucratic wrangling.' Responsibility for youth care was devolved from central government to the municipalities in 2015. The government also said the total care bill needed to be cut by €450 million, even after the transfer caused administrative problems such as waiting lists and delayed payments. The FNV union says the switch has led to a 'race to the bottom' as councils try to buy in care on the cheap, while waiting lists increase and children and their parents receive inadequate services. Vice-chair Kitty Jong said: 'Many youth care providers are at breaking point or leaving the sector. It is a crisis that is on the verge of becoming a tragedy.'  More >

Fewer maternity nurses: family on standby

Fewer people are opting for a job in maternity care, resulting in families with young babies having to share the services of a maternity nurse or relying on family members to help out, the Volkskrant reported on Friday.. A ten-day period of maternity care is part of the basic insurance package in the Netherlands. The shortage means that instead of six hours a day, new parents may only have a maternity nurse helping out for three hours a day. The problem is particularly pressing in the Randstad and Brabant, the paper found. There are no figures to pinpoint the exact size of the problem but a survey among maternity care workers by the association of maternity nurses earlier this summer showed one in five wanted to leave the profession. The lack of a balance between home life and work was cited as a reason as was the fact they are not compensated for extra hours, travel time and administrative tasks.   More >

Accept class-related health issues: WRR

We should accept that people without post-school qualifications have worse health than those with degrees and instead focus on where the most improvements in health can be made, according to government policy advisory group WRR. Rather than focus on closing the gap between population groups, efforts should be concentrated on where the most 'potential health improvements' are, the WRR said in a new report. The Dutch in general live longer and have a healthier life than they used to, but class differences remain or have even widened, the report said. Trying to close these gaps is 'a recipe for disappointment', the WRR said. For example, despite major efforts to discourage smoking, the difference in smoking rates between people with no post-school qualifications and people with college and university degrees has stretched from 4% to 10%. Combating smoking, alcohol abuse and obesity can be done better with targeted 'lifestyle interventions', the WRR said, arguing for a focus on prevention. The organisation also says psychiatric illness should be given more priority. Men in Netherlands without qualifications reach an average age of 76.8 years-old, while those with degrees top 83.  More >