"The health sector is faced with a fundamental question"

By Sarah RaparoliLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

Particularly in the health sector, privatisation is repeatedly criticised: profit and health are fundamentally incompatible, they say. Using the example of laboratories in Luxembourg, to what extent is privatisation a problem?

The story of the MRI scanner in a health centre at Potaschberg has recently caused a lot of discussion. Some supported the initiative to install a scanner in the east of the country – and close to the border with Germany – others hailed plenty of criticism and still others – specifically the Minister of Health, Paulette Lenert – declared that the commissioning had no legal basis. The Hospitals Act of 18 March 2018 stipulates that the installation of such a device can only be done in hospitals. For the radiology centre at Potaschberg, this meant that there was no legal basis to operate such a centre outside a hospital.

Apart from the legal basis, there was much discussion about the sense, purpose and benefit of an MRI scanner. Especially because of the ongoing criticism that this is another step towards privatisation, a development that the OGBL union federation has been denouncing for years. From the patients' point of view, another scanner could be of great advantage if one considers the waiting times (the figures are from 2021) to get an appointment in the country's hospitals: 60 days at the Hôpitaux Robert Schuman, 45 at the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg, 27 at the Centre Hospitalier du Nord and 24 days at the Centre Hospitalier Emile Mayrisch.

In contrast, there is criticism this may result in a two-tiered healthcare system, i.e., a health system in which a number of medical services have to be paid for privately – no problem for high-income earners, who can thus get an appointment more quickly. However, it is not only the patients who are in the focus of this debate, but also the staff themselves. They work under conditions that do not justify the amount of work and the importance of their work, says the OGBL.

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