Medicine for the People celebrates its 50th anniversary


"Today we celebrate half a century of struggle, together with patients, to build a healthy society," says Janneke Ronse, president of Medicine for the People and a nurse. "50 years that patients can go see their GP without paying. 50 years of putting our money where our mouth is. We are incredibly proud of that."​ To mark the occasion, the network of people's clinics is hosting a variety of activities and an online meeting on April 18 at 11 a.m.

Sofie en Janneke GVHV-MPLP

Founded in 1971 on the initiative of the PTB-PVDA, the network of medical centers of Medicine for the People now has 11 medical centers in Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia, with 220 employees and hundreds of volunteers, who care for 25,000 patients throughout the country.

The doctors of Medicine for the People were among the pioneers of the "See a doctor without paying" concept. "Thanks to our contribution, more and more GPs have also decided to stop asking patients for money," says Janneke Ronse, "and this system is becoming more and more widespread."

"We are both a medical centre and an action centre," she says. "Health is a right: it is our fundamental principle. At Medicine for the People, staff and patients want to change society."

Medicine for the People examines all aspects of illness and health. The organization wants to have an impact on social determinants, such as working and living conditions. But also on society as a whole. Thus, for Medicine for the People, health and social struggle go hand in hand: "You can't cure a worker's back pain with pills and exercises alone," says Sofie Merckx, a doctor at Medicine for the People and a PTB member of parliament. "We must also be able to act on working conditions and improve them. If children have too much lead in their blood, the air pollution problem in the neighbourhood must be addressed. If the drugs are too expensive, we are fighting against the looting of social security by the pharmaceutical industry."

"It's in our DNA," says Janneke Ronse, "to look beyond the four walls of our practice and work with our patients to bring about social change. We refuse to accept the world as it is and we have been fighting for 50 years alongside the workers. As long as there is injustice, Medicine for the People will be there."

The coronavirus pandemic has caused big changes in the health centres of Medicine for the People. "We were faced with the biggest health crisis in our history," says Sofie Merckx. "Within a few days, our 'normal' consultations turned into 'coronavirus consultations', dressed as a Martian," explains Dr. Merckx. "We have established guidelines to better inform workers on what to do in case of covid infection in the workplace, we have drafted protocols for testing in nursing homes. Where government has failed, we have shown time and time again that it is possible to act, thanks to our scientific expertise and the invaluable commitment of our staff. We also opened testing centres in all our medical centres and even today we organise our own tracing. It works much better than the government's, by the way. We mobilize hundreds of volunteers to call people and help them meet their quarantine."

"Whether it is the health, social, economic or political situation, the coronavirus crisis has shown us how much another society is needed," concludes the GP. "A society with supportive care based on prevention."

Click here to access the Facebook event for the April 18 online meeting.



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