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Belgium’s mental health care found to be lacking

by editor
Mental health care continues to be the weak link in Belgium’s health care system, according to the latest situation report by the federal health-care expertise centre, KCE.
Waiting times, the prescription of anti-depressants and preventive care are among the weak points of the mental health care system, according to the health system “Check-up”, produced by the KCE in collaboration with the Sciensano federal research centre, the national health insurance agency, INAMI, and the Public Health Department.

The Fourth Health-System Check-up, published on Wednesday, assesses the state of the health care system based on 121 indicators, with its strong and weak points identified by green and red lights respectively.

Mental-health patients sometimes spend considerable lengths of time waiting for a first consultation, according to the report, while “anti-depressant prescriptions continue to increase, as everywhere in Europe, but Belgium’s figures are higher than average, especially in Wallonia.”

“Preventive care also receives a mediocre rating,” the report revealed, noting that, for vaccinations, only the coverage of infants reaches an acceptable level, while the vaccination of adolescents against measles is too low in Wallonia and Brussels, and not enough senior citizens in all three regions are vaccinated against flu.

The KCE also awarded a red light for breast-cancer detection which, it said, was insufficiently monitored, particularly in Brussels and Wallonia.

Generally, the quality of health care in Belgium is quite good, but its safety rating is average, with an orange light for non-socomial infections – infections that originate in hospitals.

Where compliance with good-practice recommendations is concerned, the check-up noted an overly high use of antibiotics.

“The indicators for general medicine and nursing call into question Belgium’s capacity to deal with an aging population and increasing chronic illness, the federal centre noted. The number of general practitioners, and their average age are at issue here as well as the difficulty in filling nursing positions.

However, green lights were awarded for areas such as survival rates five years after a colon cancer, neonatal mortality and the prescription of affordable drugs.

The report is in line with an international approach to monitoring health care in Europe that enables the authorities in the different countries to plan their strategies, make comparisons between countries and set targets, KCE explained.

Oscar Schneider

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