Low-skilled dentists from Romania are causing a headache in Belgium but, because of EU rules, authorities in Belgium are powerless to act.
The country is experiencing a large influx of practitioners from Romania but the Flemish dentists’ association laments their lack of dental knowledge.
Frank Herrebout, the chairman of the Flemish Dentists’ Union, told the newspaper De Standaard: “When they appear before the [Union’s] Accreditation Committee, they cannot answer the simplest questions.”
Despite their limited knowledge and the fact that few have a good command of the Dutch language, the Union can do little about it. Romania is a member of the European Union and diplomas are automatically recognised, based on a principle of mutual trust.
In the EU there is a system of automatic recognition of qualifications for seven sectoral professions: nurses, midwives, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, architects and veterinary surgeons.
Indicating the typical complex distribution of powers in Belgium, when issues arise concerning the quality of the diplomas, the responsibility lies at the regional level. When healthcare providers are already practicing and concerns emerge regarding billing or the quality of care as time progresses, it becomes a federal responsibility.
To make matters worse, there are a considerable number of North Africans who hold Romanian dental diplomas, and some suggest many may have simply purchased their qualifications from unscrupulous private schools.
The Belgian National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance suspects that there is fraud occurring.
Regarding dentist qualification, Flanders has strict quotas, only accepting a limited number of students, who have to pay to take an entrance exam, with only the best 218 participants being allowed to start their dentistry studies.
The cabinet of Minister of Health and Social Affairs Frank Vandenbroucke said he is having “constructive conversations” with his Romanian colleagues who promise a solution to guarantee the quality and authenticity of dentist diplomas.
“We place great significance on the medical collaboration between our nation and Romania,” health officials told local media. “A growing contingent of Romanian doctors and healthcare professionals are presently practising in Belgium, mirroring the situation in several other EU member nations.
“This approach underscores our mutual solidarity within Europe, with healthcare providers from across the continent stepping in to mitigate the scarcity of medical personnel we currently confront. It’s crucial to emphasise that maintaining top-notch patient care is always our foremost priority,” the statement from the Vandenbroucke cabinet said.