Belgium– The majority of the Wallonia health care centres are considering to illegally recruiting of agencies to provide healthcare staff for their hospitals, as per a four-month investigation by sources.
There is a lack of about 20,000 nursing staff in all over Belgium, and hospitals are scrambling to hire foreign talent to meet the legal obligations of one nurse per 30 patients. Moreover, these hospitals are now turning to agencies that ferry over medical staff from Lebanon.
These agencies are implicated in a web of accusations, ranging from mafia-like practices to human trafficking and slavery.
Along with this, since 2004, the share of foreign nurses in the capital has over doubled, as the staff members of Belgium’s hospital staff are imported from abroad.
Initially hiring staff from Portugal or Romania, most of the new hires are now from Lebanon.
Since the downturn in the Lebanese economy in 2020, over two-thirds of all Lebanese nursing staff have left the nation, leaving the country short of medical expertise.
In addition, one of the Lebanese hospitals that usually has 500 nurses has seen 133 leave to go abroad, a massive blow to the beds available in the crisis-ridden nation. This is not costing lives. The pregnant mothers, one hospital director stated, are not routinely turned away because of a lack of nurses.
Furthermore, the agencies that hospitals in Wallonia rely on to supply these nurses are often of questionable status and with dodgy, or at times illegal, hiring practices.
The International Nursing Network (INN) has been requited about 200 nurses over two years on behalf of major hospitals in Belgium, such as the Chirec Group, the CHC in Liège, and the CHU Burgmann in Brussels.
This agency charged hospitals an administrative fee of €10,000 per nurse to pay for procuring equivalent diploma certificates, among other costs.
According to the Lebanese staff hired by the agency, nurses were also forced to pay for these certificates out of their own pocket, costing about €2,500. In reality, this service should cost a maximum of €200.
“It asked me to pay so that it could find me a job in a Belgian hospital,” one Lebanese nurse mentioned in the statement. “In all, it wanted to charge me $5,000… It takes advantage of people’s naivety.”