Hospital Network Antwerp, Belgium

Nominated for implementation of the project “Improvement of accessibility of healthcare for ethnic minorities” in Belgium.

The project Improvement of accessibility of healthcare for ethnic minorities (including Roma, Travellers, Roma Migrants and Sinti/Manush) is implemented by Ziekenhuis Network Antwerp (short ZNA) in cooperation with the government of Belgium since 1998. This project started in 1998 as a pilot. Since 2007, the project has been implemented in the structure of the organization because of the great results and the benefit for the patients and ZNA.

Every person regardless of nationality, religion, gender, age, can access the health care services of ZNA, but research and field experiences on the other side shows very clearly that not everybody has equal access to healthcare for a variety of reasons (financial, language, lack of information). ZNA’s goal is to contribute to equal access to healthcare with a strong focus on the minority and vulnerable groups in Antwerp to make sure they there are no barriers to enter the healthcare system. To achieve this goal, ZNA works with intercultural mediators to engage with different communities to remove the cultural barriers and increase the access, because the accessible healthcare is a human right for all of us.

In Western Europe, resolving language and cultural barriers in healthcare is considered to be the most urgent, evident and straightforward area, in which intervention is needed. There are currently 12 intercultural mediators and 40 social workers involved in this project.

In 2015 ZNA has reached approx. 3000 Roma persons that needed extra assistance of an intercultural mediator in relation to health and social care (documents, certificates, health insurance, prevention). This number represents 30% of the Roma population living in Antwerp. In total, 20 000 patients requested the support of intercultural mediators in ZNA. ZNA notices a clear increase of minority groups and people living in a vulnerable situation accessing the services of ZNA resulting in fewer people entering the healthcare system when it is already too late.