Bonum Certa Men Certa

EPO Quality of Life: Even The Medical Staff is Burning Out

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Jan 16, 2024

Concept about medical lawsuit, stethoscope and gavel on white background

Burned out staff, which typically escalates the matter and treats it as a health-related matter (occupational health), discovers that even the medical staff or nurses cannot keep up (either with the level of burnout or one's own burnout)

THE Local Staff Committee The Hague (LSCTH), writing to EPO staff this past fall, shared an "open letter requesting the urgent recruitment of an additional occupational nurse in The Hague," saying it had been "sent to VP1 Steven Rowan."

Judging by the body of the open letter, even the people who are meant to help exhausted (physically and mentally) staff are having a crisis of their own. Have a look:

European Patent Office
Patentlaan 2
2288 EE Rijswijk

Staff Committee The Hague
Date: 07-09-2023

European Patent Office | 2288EE RIJSWIJK | NETHERLANDS

Mr Steven Rowan
Vice President DG1 – Site Manager EPO The

By email

.cc Ms Simon - VP4, Andreas Sattler,
Jan Boulanger

Open letter

Urgent need for recruiting occupational nurse in the Hague

Dear Mr Rowan,

The newly elected local staff committee of The Hague would like to express their concerns of reaching a minimum critical level of Occupational Health Services (OHS) available to staff in The Hague. As Anne Boström, acting OHS nurse, will be leaving us for her well-deserved pension as soon as the 31 st of October, she does not seem to have a replacement for the time being. Hilde van de Velde, the second nurse with more than fifteen years of experience in our Office left on pension this year and had relatively little time to train her replacement. With the departure of Anne, the nurse ‘workforce’ would go from two senior nurses to one in less than a year, which is a very drastic reduction of expertise and capacity in the local OHS.

We would like to remind you of the fact that our staff in the Netherlands face unique challenges due to the structure of the national Dutch healthcare system, which provides a different access level to health care compared to the other places of employment. The national healthcare system is experiencing huge staff shortages and long waiting lists, and this ‘health gap’ was partly filled by our on-site OH services, at least as far as they could offer support.
The Dutch General Practitioners network is already overstretched which reflects itself in reduced accessibility, lower service levels and delayed appointments and referrals.

The activities and support given by OHS are a true added value for our staff and very beneficial for the proper functioning of the EPO The Hague.

The specific situation in the Netherlands also brings proportionally more work to the OHS services in the TH. Therefore, if in the future, we would like to keep the service level as it was promised in the discussions on the health reform, none of the OH staff members can be spared in The Hague.

Furthermore, a big part - if not all – of Anne’s workload is likely to be taken over by the one remaining nurse on top of her already high workload inherited from Hilde. That puts her under serious risk of overworking and possibly burn out. The Office should also protect the standing OHS staff by providing enough resources in the Hague.

We therefore request your full support for the immediate start of a recruitment procedure for an internal OHS nurse to replace Anne Boström. A full time internal OHS nurse position is as necessary as always because of the complex situation staff finds itself in.

In former COHSEC meetings it was confirmed to us that two internal full time OHS nurses positions would continue to exist after the latest health reform and that any vacant posts would be refilled. This is also confirmed in the intranet organigram by two separate internal OHS-nurses. Temporary externalization cannot give relief to the lack of internal staff for this type of work because of the lack of organizational knowledge of such a workforce. It would help staff regain trust in management if these promises were kept.

Kind regards,
Isabelle Brandt
Chair Local Staff Committee The Hague

The EPO's corrupt management has managed to make burnout the new normal. The staff surveys commissioned by SUEPO, the staff union, serve to confirm this.

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