The situation of paediatricians in Luxembourg calmed down after the intense months last autumn, but still leaves much room for improvement. Why the sector does not seem to attract young successors, and why politics lacks foresight.
"I'm not the youngest any more either, " Dr Serge Allard replies during the interview in his office at the Centre for Paediatrics in Val-Ste-Croix (Belair), "and I'll be 60 in a few months. I like doing my job, but it's very exhausting at the moment." The paediatrician studied in Belgium, came back to Luxembourg in 1994 and currently holds the post of president of the Luxembourg Society of Paediatrics (SLP). While he talks, it is clear that the last few months have left their mark. "The situation started to calm down since the beginning of the year."
Let's go back a few months: With the onset of autumn, bronchiolitis cases among under-twos in the Grand Duchy increased. Bronchiolitis is a viral disease caused mainly by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It is called bronchiolitis when the infants' bronchioles (small bronchial tubes) are infected and the air in the lungs can no longer circulate freely. It affects the respiratory tract of young children and can cause a runny nose, fever, cough, wheezing when exhaling and difficult breathing. The situation came to a head in October, November and December. Every few years, it gets more tense, but the reason why it was so bad back in 2022 can not be determined for sure.
Hard to tell people no
Dr Allard also looks back, "We had days when we came at 8 am and didn't leave until 7 pm." He rifles through his calendar on the computer and goes back to those three months. "As you can see, we had almost no break during that time. Maybe five minutes to take a quick bite of the bun." And yes, there is not a single slot free in the calendar we see before us – day after day. In addition, he says, a late appointment affects all those that follow. "If someone is late, it is my responsibility to see how to handle it, " says the doctor.
On average, he sees 35 patients per day. He plans 15 to 30 minutes per session, depending on the case. "My office hours are always full. Last year, 4,000 people came in Luxembourg City alone. Many expats who need doctors for their children, but they don't exist." The centre in Belair tries to take in all children, he says. "I can't just tell people no, " the doctor counters, "but I have my limits." He points out that it is the regular procedure that families who come to Dr Allard with a child can be sure that the next children of the familiy will also be treated by him.
"During autumn, my secretary received calls early on Monday mornings from parents who said that their paediatrician had no more appointments available. So you have to work an extra hour in the evening or cancel your afternoon off." This is the opinion of Dr Alexander Schulze-Berge, who has been working as a paediatrician in Luxembourg since 2007 and is currently based in Diekirch. "I follow the rule: my patients get an appointment and only then I am allowed to go home." At peak times, he saw 60 patients a day. According to him, the private practice sector can not succeed "if people only think liberally, " which means that if someone is a private practitioner, he or she must also take care of his or her patients. "Freedom does not work without responsibility."
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