Rotterdam opens low income healthcare policy to all Rotterdammers

Rotterdam city council is opening the health insurance scheme it set up for low-income households to all residents of the port city. The policy, which had targeted people with an income of less than 130% of the minimum wage, will now be offered city-wide, officials said on Thursday. 'We developed the policy for people with high care needs, who are vulnerable and don't have much money, alderman Sven de Langen told Radio 1 news. The policy, a joint product with insurance group VGZ, absorbs most of the compulsory €385 own risk payment. Policyholders have to pay just €50 towards the cost of their treatment over a year rather than the full amount. The premium for for the Rotterdampolis in 2019 has not been made public. This year the charge is €104.58 a month, plus €63.05 for top-up policies. Single people on low incomes can also claim up to €94 a month in healthcare benefits.   More >

Organ and tissue donations at record high

A record number of people donated organs after their death in 2018, according to figures from the Dutch Transplant Foundation (NTS). In total 273 people who died donated organs, out of 336 who were registered donors. The number of transplants was 815, a 15% increase on the previous year. There was a slight fall in the number of living donors, from 561 to 522. Living organ donations nearly always involve kidneys. The NTS said a change in the rules on tissue donation to allow tissue to be taken from people who had suffered blood poisoning was partly responsible for the increase. Last year 2398 people donated tissue such as skin and bones, which is used in almost half of all transplants. Bernadette Haasse, director of the NTS, said: 'Although the growth in organ and tissue transplants is a very hopeful development, we are still not there. There are still people dying because they don't receive an organ in time.'    More >

Medicine shortages continue to rise

Medicine shortages reached a new record level in 2018, continuing a growing trend that dates back to the start of the decade. The pharmacists' umbrella body KNMP said 769 medicines were unavailable at some stage during the year, including 128 treatments that were taken out of circulation altogether. The figure has been rising steadily since 2010, when fewer than 200 medicines were affected. The organisation blamed the shortages on measures by the government to keep prices low and a preferential pricing system introduced by insurers. But health insurers said the preferential model, under which pharmaceutical companies submit tenders to produce out-of-patent medicines, was not the main cause. 'In the vast majority of cases the shortages concern medicines outside the preferential system,' said a spokesman for umbrella body Zorgverzekeraars Nederland. Under the tendering process insurers will only cover the cost of the cheapest version on offer. One of the most high-profile stock shortages in 2018 concerned the most commonly prescribed contraceptive pills, including Mycrogynon 30, which is taken by around 1.2 million women. A large batch of the pills was destroyed in September because it failed safety tests, though the competitive tendering process was also cited as a factor. Patients who take the drug Levodopa for Parkinson's disease were affected by production problems at the manufacturer. Although alternative drugs are available, the switch was likely to have a negative impact on the patient's functioning. Other categories of medicine where shortages were experienced included drugs to control epilepsy, which were out of stock on 19 occasions, as well as treatments for eye conditions and antibiotics, according to the KNMP. A spokesman for public health minister Bruno Bruins told NOS that the government recommended health insurers keep a three to four months' supply of all drugs in stock. He claimed that this would prevent around 60% of shortages.    More >

The Hague's Bronovo hospital set to close

The Hague's Bronovo hospital, popular with both royals and the international community, is likely to close within a couple of years, local newspaper Den Haag Centraal reports. A confidential report on the Haagland Medisch Centrum, which runs three hospitals including the Bronovo, suggests that the closing of the hospital is unavoidable in order to shore up the group's finances, the paper states. HMC has declined to comment on the speculation, but Den Haag Centraal says the Bronovo will shut at the end of 2021 or in 2022. 'We are looking at the options to ensure affordable care in the future,' the HMC said in a statement. 'This week talks are being held between patients, staff, insurance companies, local councils and the ministry,' the organisation said. The results of the consultation process will be announced on January 24.  More >

Hospital secrecy campaigner dies

Adrienne Cullen, the Irish woman who campaigned for transparency in hospital care after she was left with terminal cervical cancer thanks to a Dutch medical error has died at the age of 58. Her husband Peter Cluskey issued a statement on Twitter saying that his wife had been 'appallingly treated' and that this had made her a 'formidable warrior'. @AdrienneCullen died at the Netherlands Cancer Institute @hetAVL at 10.15 am today. To those who have been so loyal and generous - particularly @UCC and @osheaucc for her honorary doctorate - a million thanks. She was appallingly treated +and it made her a formidable warrior. RIP — Peter Cluskey (@petercluskey) December 31, 2018 Adrienne first underwent tests in the Netherlands in 2011 but it was not until two years later that a review of old pathology results showed that she had cancer. By 2015 her cancer had spread and, because of the delays, was classed terminal. She was offered €500,000 compensation by Utrecht's UMCU teaching hospital on condition she sign a gagging order, which she refused to do, and began campaigning for more transparency about medical errors. The hospital eventually settled with Adrienne and her husband for €545,000, the highest medical negligence award ever made in the Netherlands. Lecture In April this year, she was able to give a lecture at the hospital calling for the victims of medical errors to be heard, alongside the doctor responsible for her misdiagnosis. An Adrienne Cullen lecture is now part of the university calendar. Early in December she was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Cork. Her book about her experiences ‘Deny, Dismiss, Dehumanize : What Happened When I went to Hospital’ will be published shortly. Adrienne's impact was such in the Netherlands that public broadcaster NOS and the NRC newspaper are among the media outlets to carry an obituary. 'Staying silent was not an Option for Adrienne Cullen' 1960-2018 NRC obituary by Frederiek Weeda: — Peter Cluskey (@petercluskey) December 31, 2018 Watch an interview with Adrienne earlier this year  More >

Minister presses on with digital files

Health minister Bruno Bruins is planning to force health care institutions to exchange information about their patients digitally in an effort to speed up the transfer of information and reduce medical errors. Patients will also be able to see their own records and 'manage' them, Bruins said in a briefing to MPs. 'If the electronic exchange of healthcare information is properly organised, avoidable mistakes can be prevented and care givers will have more time for patients,' he said. said. 'It is also in the interests of patient safety that digital becomes the new standard.' Hospitals, family practitioners and healthcare professionals all have their own systems and these have to be adapted to work together, Bruins said. This is currently being done on a voluntary basis but it taking too long, hence the need for legislation. He has set aside €400m to kickstart the process and plans to publish detailed plans to tackle the problem by April next year. Privacy The privacy of medical records has been a major theme in recent years. The government is currently expected to withdraw a bill that would have allowed health insurers to share patients’ details without their prior consent in an attempt to stamp out fraud. The bill faced defeat in the Senate because of concerns that the move would breach patient confidentiality. In 2011 the upper house of parliament pulled the plug on a €300m project to introduce such a system due to privacy concerns.  More >

Health council backs more vaccinations

The Dutch health council said on Wednesday that it backs vaccinating all 14 month old babies and all 14-year-olds against meningococcal types C and W and has urged the government to add the injections to the national vaccination programme. Babies of 14 months are already given the vaccination as standard but teenagers are being offered a one off injection in 2018 and 2019. The health council now says that should happen every year. However, it does not recommend vaccinations against meningococcal type B because of the side effects which can include high temperatures, and a lack of clarity about its effectiveness. Meningococcal W claimed 18 lives in the Netherlands the first eight months of 2018, three times as many as the equivalent period last year. The infection most commonly occurs in the 15 to 19 age group and is spread by coughing and sneezing. The virus can live in the nasal passages without causing infection, but if it enters the bloodstream or nervous system it can trigger symptoms similar to gastric flu such as high temperatures, vomiting and diarrhoea. On Tuesday, the health council said babies need only be vaccinated twice against whooping cough, if their mothers were vaccinated against the disease during their pregnancy.  More >

Compulsory patient data sharing dropped

The government is expected to withdraw a bill that would have allowed health insurers to share patients' details without their prior consent in an attempt to stamp out fraud. The measure was designed to reduce the potential for fraud in cases where people receive treatment from companies that have no contract with their insurer. The costs for this treatment have to be reclaimed afterwards, but insurers had no way of checking that the correct rates had been charged. Edith Schippers, health minister in the previous cabinet, drafted a bill that would have required care providers to share patients' details and information about the diagnosis with their insurer so they could assess if the treatment had been properly costed. However, the bill faced defeat in the Senate after the Labour party (PvdA), which supported the move while it was in government, changed its stance when it went into opposition. Senators are concerned that the move would breach patient confidentiality because clients would only be told afterwards that their information had been shared with their insurer. They also said that the doctors assessing the claims were not sufficiently independent because they were working for the insurer. Insurance companies said €27 million was lost through fraud from non-contracted treatment in 2017, up by €8 million on the previous year. In recent years insurers have sought to reduce their liabilities and the cost to the consumer by limiting the range of care providers they have contracts with.  More >