How far will budget cuts go?
After staff reductions, hotdesking, the closure of some buildings in winter and soon in summer:
it’s now the turn of mandatory annual medical check-ups to take the hit!
And always under the same empty slogan: “reduce more and more… Always do more with much less”
|Indeed, the mandatory annual check-up will no longer be entirely reimbursed but at the JSIS rate! R&D sadly observes that, once again, DG HR and the PMO are taking unilateral and arbitrary decisions, this time disregarding staff health prevention! The PMO is failing in its obligation to transparently inform staff. In fact, as rightly denounced by many of our colleagues on the IntraComm ‘Have Your Say’ forum, they have been refused full reimbursement of their annual check-up without any prior notice! The reimbursement rate is now that of the JSIS.|
As usual, there are also some pompous and professorial explanations from PMO trying to justify the validity of this decision concerning the annual medical check-up, while highlighting the legitimacy of the screening program set up by the PMO, which is voluntary. It is true that this screening program is part of preventive medicine, just like the annual check-up, except that the latter is a statutory obligation.
It is important to clarify the two concepts here: on one hand, the mandatory annual check-up according to Article 59 §6 of the Staff Regulations1 requested by the employer—the Institution, and on the other hand, the screening program managed by the PMO. In this respect, IntraComm provides the following information: “Every year, officials and other staff members must undergo a preventive medical check-up (Article 59 §6 of the Staff Regulations). Starting from 15/02/2023, the protocol for the annual medical check-up has been simplified. The annual medical check-up offered by the medical service includes a consultation with your general practitioner or, for personnel in Luxembourg and Ispra, at the corresponding Medical Service; a set of examinations (vision test, electrocardiogram, if recommended by your doctor); and laboratory tests to be carried out at the medical service’s laboratory. Staff members in high-risk positions only undergo the annual check-ups at the medical service and are subjected to additional examinations“.
On the one hand, we do share staff’s discontent about the fact that this information does not provide any details about reimbursement procedures or the nature of the services and examinations available.
On the other hand, we would still like to pay tribute to the dedication of our colleagues in the PMO who, while being called upon to work in very difficult conditions, spare no effort to offer all possible assistance to colleagues and are called upon to implement decisions for which they are in no way responsible and of which they, in turn, are victims.
The obligation of transparency and the duty of care would have required a clear statement that any examination not mentioned here will no longer be fully covered, as was the case before the “simplification”.
For example, a specific examination related to the patient (gynaecological, cardiac stress test, etc.) that was previously part of the protocol is no longer included, and the additional costs are borne by the staff.
It is true that biological tests (blood & urine) can be carried out free of charge by the Medical Service if required by your doctor, but it should not be forgotten that in Brussels the Medical Service only offers the possibility of an annual check-up to staff at risk2 .
R&D and staff members have every right to question the real content of “additional treatments not provided for in the medical service protocol” and the complete opacity of this decision. R&D recalls the spirit of the concept of compulsory annual check-ups enshrined in the Staff Regulations; it is therefore inconceivable that it should be borne, even in part, by staff!
The real risk here is that staff may neglect this compulsory annual examination, knowing that it has become commonplace as a regular medical check-up, since they have to pay for an obligation that normally falls to the Institution, their employer. What’s more, this additional financial burden shifted onto staff can have dramatic consequences, especially for more vulnerable staff (colleagues on low salaries, single-parent families, ….).
The first legitimate question is: why this cost-saving measure? On what basis do DG HR and the PMO take such a decision?
So far, our JSIS system has been functioning well. Furthermore, this short-term budgetary saving at the expense of colleagues will result in colleagues being excluded from the preventive medicine advocated not only by the various experts in the field of health prevention but also by the Commission, and in the long term will have serious consequences resulting in much higher treatment costs that the Institution will have to bear. It is important to remember that we have an ageing workforce within the Commission, for whom genuine preventive medicine is essential.
In this regard, R&D would also like to know why the Institution maintains a double standard, spreading the good word to Member States on prevention policies, while applying the opposite policy internally.
We can quote the European Cancer Plan: “Saving lives through sustainable cancer prevention, about 40% of cancer cases could be prevented: effective cancer prevention strategies can prevent the disease, save lives, and reduce suffering.” or the tweet from Commissioner Stella Kyriakides: “Regular cancer screening is an important priority within the #EUCancerPlan.”
Instead of providing clear answers to staff’s more than justified complaints, the PMO seemed explaining on IntraComm that too much screening can be detrimental to our health! Even accusing colleagues of indulging in superficial and uninformed debates like those on social networks!
The pedantic exchanges, the mind-boggling remarks made by the PMO, the superior, condescending, and professorial tone, the lack of precise and transparent information clearly indicate the unacceptable attitude of the PMO towards staff, subtly unsettling them on sensitive topics.
Staff have the right to be informed in a clear and transparent manner. Such a decision to cut the budget for medical check-ups, which is a statutory obligation incumbent on the employer, can certainly not be borne by staff; it is unacceptable.
We advocate the social and inclusive values of Europe, where the healthcare system is one of the best in the world. So, let’s live up to our commitments and remain the most attractive institution not only for its values but also for its healthcare system.
R&D asks for this decision to be reconsidered
R&D will always denounce any abusive administrative dysfunction.
R&D will always be there to defend your rights.
1. Article 59- 6. Officials shall undergo a medical check-up every year either by the institution’s medical officer or by a medical practitioner chosen by them. In the latter case, the practitioner’s fees shall be payable by the institution up to a maximum amount fixed for a period of no more than three years by the Appointing Authority after consulting the Staff Regulations Committee.
2. ” The annual medical check-up takes place systematically at the Medical Service in Brussels for staff holding a post at risk: driver, security guard, creche, nursery, kitchen staff, staff in delegations and returning from delegation, interpreters, staff working at the print office. For Commission staff who do not occupy a post at risk, and staff in agencies, the annual medical check-up will be carried out by the GP of your choice. For the annual medical check-up at your GP, you will be reimbursed by submitting the request in JSIS online by selecting the request type: “Medical Service” (more information) up to the ceiling of EUR 45.”