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Six out of 10 doctors in French-speaking Belgium not accepting new patients
Six out of 10 (61%) French-speaking general practitioners are no longer taking on new patients, according to an online survey of 366 doctors conducted by Medi-Sphere, reports RTBF.
The figure is 57% in Wallonia and 51% in the Brussels region, which puts the Belgian capital on par with Flanders in terms of access to French-speaking doctors.
The trend appears across gender, age, and type of practice – whether a group practice or individual – but there were differences along these lines and within regions.
When it comes to the gender of GPs no longer expanding their practices in Wallonia, 70% of female respondents say they aren’t taking on new patients, compared to 46% of men. In Brussels, 53% of women and 49% of men are not taking newcomers.
Differences when it comes to the ages of doctors were also noticeable in the capital: 57% of Brussels’ GPs between the ages of 36 and 45 are not expanding patient lists, more so than their colleagues aged 46 to 55, of whom 44% aren’t taking new patients. For doctors aged 26-35, the figure is 44%.
In the Walloon region, younger GPs refuse the most new patients: 80% of them have already stopped expanding their practice. However, the percentage is also high in the other age groups in Wallonia, with 70% of respondents refusing new patients in the 36-45 and 46-55 age groups.
As for the type of practice, 55% of individual practitioners in Brussels are no longer taking new patients compared to 45% in group practices and 40% who operate exclusively in ‘medical centres’, the study found.
In Wallonia, on the other hand, the highest proportion of doctors refusing new patients is found in medical centres and group practices: 78% and 73%, respectively.
The reasons given for declining new patients include the GP’s age and proximity to retirement, administrative burdens, quality of life, or the level of demands of patients and the poor way in which they treat their GPs.
The shortage of doctors in Belgium has been improving overall but still remains problematic. Some are calling for mandatory internships in rural areas for young practitioners as a potential solution to a lack of care in these areas.