"The virus is responsible, no one else"

By Sarah RaparoliLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

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As others stopped working, health care workers continue to care for their fellow human beings. As they did, they experienced both beautiful and stressful moments. Covid has completely turned their working day upside down. Four people from different areas of health care report in our video.

Even if the infection didn't reach everyone personally, it likely hit somebody from the family or circle of friends. Add to this lockdowns, restrictive measures and a new daily routine. Everyone felt the impact of the pandemic. Health workers were equally surprised by the outbreak of the coronavirus over a year ago. Doctors, nurses, psychologists or midwives – the entire staff of the health sector – had to adjust: The partly known was joined by the completely unknown.

In countries like Italy, the virus spread more quickly at first. Many things could be learnt or optimised through the experiences abroad. Everything was done to prevent such dramatic situations in our country. Infections and deaths nevertheless skyrocketed, and it was not long before wards in Luxembourg were overcrowded, and hospitals were stretched to their limits: The pandemic has left its mark to this day wherever health and nursing staff are needed.

Retirement and nursing homes, assisted (living) structures and psychiatric wards had to be adapted to the new challenges. Treatments were adapted or interrupted, operations were postponed, already existing problems such as the lack of medication intensified. Patients in all structures could no longer receive visitors. Doctors, nurses – all health professionals had to face these new challenges and try to cope with them.

Dependent on foreign countries

In addition, there is another circumstance that was repeatedly mentioned at many of the government's press conferences: Luxembourg is dependent on foreign countries. As Prime Minister Xaver Bettel reiterated just last month: "Without cross-border workers, we will not overcome this crisis." The majority of people in the health sector come from across the borders. This information is not new, as a study had already pointed to a possible shortage of staff in the future in 2019.

Hundreds of professionals and organisations had participated in the survey at that time. The result: 62 percent of health workers come from abroad. By 2034, 71 percent of doctors will retire, and in the remaining health professions (including nursing), there could be a shortage of 6,000 people. Making the individual professions more attractive was only one of the measures announced to counteract this and has been "under construction" for some time.

Last September, the Health Round Table met and addressed this issue. Health Minister Paulette Lenert spoke of a "problem that needs to be addressed urgently". Lenert and Social Security Minister Romain Schneider explained that the need in Luxembourg could not be met by Luxembourg staff alone. In addition, many students studying abroad would later settle there professionally.

New Bachelor's degree programme

In the future, it will therefore become clear which concrete ideas can be elaborated and implemented by the working group of the Health Round Table. The presentation of the reform plans last week is the most recent. The training of various professions in the health sector will be adapted. In a working group, the area of nursing in particular was analysed. The LTPS ("Lycée technique pour professions de santé") will continue to take care of the BTS training "Infirmier en soins généraux".

However, the specialisations will be taken over by the University of Luxembourg and offered from 2022/2023, respectively from 2023/2024 on. From the same school year, a three-year bachelor's programme for "Infirmier en soins généraux" will be added and the offer for the "Infirmier spécialisé" will also be expanded. Only last year, a new bachelor's degree in medicine was introduced at the local university. Since then, the first three years can be completed here in the country. Until that point, only one year was offered in Luxembourg, after which students had to go abroad.

However, it will be some time before these improvements bear fruit and provide the skills needed for the 26 health professions in the country. But what is the situation like at the moment for the people caring for patients on a daily basis? What impact did the pandemic have on their daily work? What is the mood like among the staff and what challenges do they have to overcome? Four people who work in the health sector will tell you themselves.

In the video:

midwife Melina Multon,
nursing assistant Jil Scheuer,
intensive care physician Dr Jean Reuter
and psychologist and psychotherapist Dr Phil Charles Benoy.

Impressions from the health sector

*in Luxembourgish with English subtitles