Recommendations for a better federal coronavirus policy

18 November 2021

After many hearings and months of meetings, the special committee charged with examining the handling of the coronavirus crisis (especially during the first wave) has made several recommendations. Unfortunately, these recommendations lack clarity and, according to the N-VA group, it is far from certain that the right lessons will be learned to improve future policy.

That is why MPs Frieda Gijbels, Kathleen Depoorter and Yngvild Ingels have brought together in a resolution proposal the recommendations that did not make it into the final text, but which they believe are important. That has been under consideration in the meantime.

We brought together some key points:

  • That the public services and institutions (FPS Public Health, Sciensano, the FAMHP medicines agency), which played a major role during the crisis, be subjected to an external audit. The majority parties previously rejected that recommendation. “It is only logical that you thoroughly investigate how the services functioned in times of crisis and that an independent report is made on it. It is unacceptable that pain points are not identified and that lessons are therefore missed. We have a responsibility here for the future. It is also still unclear who was responsible for the destruction of the strategic stock and why it was not renewed in time. It is entirely inappropriate to want to keep it under the radar,” Kathleen Depoorter says.
  • “We also still don’t know why there is such a large variation in the length of stay and the risk of death in the various hospitals. In the future, this must be transparent from the start, so that hospitals and healthcare providers can also learn from each other,” adds Frieda Gijbels. She is calling for open and more transparent handling of the data collected in such a health crisis. For example, it is unacceptable that scientists do not have access to data (anonymised, of course). “In addition, reports by advisory bodies must be made public immediately. The rule must be that everything is public unless there are compelling reasons for not doing so,” Frieda Gijbels concludes.
  • The MPs also believe that parliament must be much more involved and measures must be substantiated. Whether its effect is successful or unsuccessful must also be clearly presented to the House of Representatives.
  • The Crisis Centre must be able to fully assume its role and must ensure that the correct crisis structures are deployed. “Efforts need to be made to improve knowledge of these crisis structures among members of government and other administrators. Moreover, the government must demonstrate at the start of each legislature how it will arm itself against the 10 main threats,” Yngvild Ingels says.
  • “During this crisis, it has also become clear that no one can make sense of the way in which this country is composed. No one knew exactly who was responsible for what, and it was all too easy to pass on responsibilities. Work must be done once and for all on homogeneous competence packages. The multiplicity of ministers for health and welfare must be done away with so that every policy maker is fully confronted with his or her area of competence. Even outside of times of crisis, a regional healthcare system would bring many benefits, since prevention only pays off if it is tailor-made for the community and if that community can also reap the benefits.”

The N-VA will continue to work hard in the House to achieve the above.

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