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Regional shortages in a small country: how to provide the right care in the right place?

Hansen, J., Batenburg, R., Vis, E., Velden, L. van der. Regional shortages in a small country: how to provide the right care in the right place? European Journal of Public Health: 2019, 29(ckz185.410)
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The Netherlands, though being a relatively small and densely populated country, is faced with a similar challenge as other countries in terms of regional differences in access to care and attractiveness for care workers to build their careers. Both in primary care and hospital care new solutions are being sought which should help resolve these growing difficulties.

We conducted a literature review, survey and registry analysis, and held interviews with key stakeholders.

Substantial differences exist between regions in the supply of both primary care and hospital care doctors. Particular and less populated regions appear to be hit in multiple ways, both with an extra ageing population requiring more care as well as by limited attractiveness for both primary care and hospital care workers. Solutions being used so far are mostly initiated by individual health care settings, such as strategic personnel management, redistribution of tasks and campaigns to increase the inflow of staff. Increasingly, solutions are also being explored at regional level, including a growing emphasis on regional collaboration, both in providing the right care in the right place as well as in terms of joint recruitment strategies. Still, such approaches only have a limited effect as a result of which new approaches are needed.

Strategies to improve the attractiveness of particular regions are now often fragmented, both between types of professions and sectors and different regions. In addition, innovative and new solutions appear to be hampered by vested interests of stakeholders. If new solutions are to be developed it is key that stakeholders are willing to compromise, be it when it comes to the autonomy of health care professionals and their associations and to the financial commitments required from government and insurer side.