Hospital staff throughout the Netherlands are taking action today. A large part of the operations are cancelled, the X-ray departments are also at a standstill. Emergency care, care for cancer patients and treatments for children up to the age of 12 will continue.
“We don’t want to hurt patients, but we can’t do anything else. Better working conditions are really needed, because we see an underemployment,” says intake nurse and action leader Nicole Tillema at RTV Noord. “People are now retraining and the courses also have fewer registrations.”
Tillema works at the Martini Hospital in Groningen. There, eighteen departments are participating in the action. “Like the operating complex, the recovery, the central sterilization and the X-ray,” she says. Nurses who are on the roster today will just come to the hospital. “They don’t do their normal work, but take a walk with patients, for example,” says Tillema.
The action follows the failed collective labor agreement negotiations with the employers, united in the NVZ. They do offer a wage increase of 13 percent, but spread over two years. The staff immediately demands an additional 10 percent. The unions also want a higher travel allowance, an irregular hours allowance over the full hourly wage and a (much) higher allowance for on-call services.
It is “a diabolical dilemma”, said Marjolein Tasche of the NVZ yesterday. “We can only spend our money once. And we also want to invest in new equipment and training for our people to be ready for digital care and innovations.”
‘claim what we deserve’
“We have to claim what we deserve. I want to fight for that,” says nurse Maartje Laor van der Spruit in the OLVG in Amsterdam at NH News. “A lot has changed recently. I mean the corona crisis. You notice less and less appreciation in the hospital. We just learned that our profession is so important, right? Then that inflation comes and we dangle at the bottom of the list of professions who get a pay rise. Is that our thanks? I felt mainly surprise and anger. It’s just unjust.”
Doctor’s assistant Györgyike Horvath in the urology department in the Spaarne Hospital in Haarlem is also out of it. Especially after corona. “We are still working on catch-up care,” she says. “Men with an enlarged prostate who need surgery sometimes wait months for it. We get thirty new patients a day. You can’t do that with ten or twelve doctors. You just can’t make it.”
In the Flevoziekenhuis in Almere, the workload is so high that even organizing a day of action was not an option. “Besides the fact that there are many sick people, there is still a huge shortage of personnel”. says nurse Suzanne van der Kooi at Omroep Flevoland. “This ensures that the employees are actually already walking on their toes and cannot afford to invest much energy in an action committee.”
To do something, a number of nurses in Almere held a short sit-in this morning before going back to work.
The activists all say they feel sorry for the patients. “I really don’t like the fact that operations have to be canceled now,” says Laor van der Spruit. “Patients don’t deserve that. But, we were already handing out flyers at the main entrance last Monday, and I didn’t hear any negative reaction there. People said: ‘and rightly so!’ That’s such a good feeling.”
For the time being, this is a one-day action in the hospitals. But the nurses fear that it will not stop there. Behind the scenes, preparations are already being made for a second action day in April, says Nicole Tillema in Groningen. Loar van der Spruit also suspects that it will not stop at one day of action. “I’m really concerned about healthcare in our country,” she says. “Also when I look to the future: fewer and fewer young people are entering care. It gives me energy that I can do something today. Convert my frustration into action so that hopefully something will change.”
- Operating rooms will be shut down tomorrow: staff and hospitals in deadlock