Young women more likely to be off work sick than men

Flu thermometer.Women aged 25 to 35 are twice as likely to be off work sick than men, and pregnancy and childbirth only account for part of the difference, the national statistics office CBS said on Tuesday.

While there is no difference in the absenteeism rate among the under 25s or the over 55s, there is a marked difference between people in their late 20s and early 30s, the CBS said.

The under 25s have an absenteeism rate of around 2%, which means they are home ill for two in every 100 days of work. However, the rate for women aged 25 to 35 is 4.3% but just 2.2% for men of the same age.

‘The research does not take differences in working situations into account, such as physical labour or psycho-social stress,’ the CBS said. ‘But other research which does take these factors into account also show significantly higher absenteeism rates among women, a difference which is partly due to illness during pregnancy and after childbirth.’

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Lack of care workers is putting patients at risk, says nurses


The new government needs to come up with an emergency plan to tackle the lack of care professionals, which is causing high levels of work stress and is putting patients at risk, nurses’ association V&VN warns.

A survey by the association among 17,000 nurses and care workers shows 85% of care staff have to cope with fewer colleagues or work extra shifts.

‘Sometimes one person has to look after 81 patients, irresponsible’, wrote one of the respondents. Another said ‘I am afraid to make mistakes. At the end of a busy day I don’t know whether I may have forgotten something.’

Over three-quarters of the respondents said the lack of staff is directly influencing their health and personal lives while almost half said patient safety is at risk. One in ten people working in care is considering leaving the profession.

Make caring more attractive

Better pay, better basic contracts for young nurses and care staff, and less administrative and cleaning tasks are among the options nurses say will do much to make caring a more attractive career choice, V&VN claims.

‘It is very important that managers and administrators listen to what care workers have to say,’ V&VN director Sonja Kersten said. ‘The signals about work pressure are alarming. We are in dire need of new staff. But there are things that can be done now, such as giving people more financial security and improving people’s work schedules.’

According to the V&VN, an increasingly elderly population, changes in the care system and new quality norms in care home nursing mean some 125,000 care professionals will be needed up to 2025. This is on top of the thousands of vacancies already unfilled.

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Iodine pills to be given to teenagers living near Belgian reactor

The nuclear plant at Doel. Photo: Torsade de Pointes via Wikimedia Commons

More than a million iodine tablets are being handed out to people in North Brabant who live within a 100km radius of a Belgian nuclear power plant.

The tablets protect people from radioactive fall-out in the event of a nuclear accident or leak. Younger people who are exposed to radioactive iodine are at greater risk of developing thyroid cancer.

Until now the pills have been given to anyone under 40 living within 20km of the reactor in Doel, across the border in Belgium, but since Friday the coverage has been extended to include anyone under 18 who lives up to 100km from the plant.

Older people are not given free pills because their chance of developing cancer is lower. However, pregnant women can obtain supplies from their local pharmacy for €2.95.

The Dutch government has set up a web page where residents can type in their age and postcode to see if they are eligible for iodine tablets. Click here to check if you are included.

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Effective skin cancer treatment no longer being made after patent expired

Amsterdam’s VU medical centre. Photo:

A medicine that was shown to improve the chances of surviving melanoma, one of the most aggressive forms of cancer, is no longer available to patients because its patent has expired, it has emerged.

Tests carried out at the VU medical centre in Amsterdam indicated that the injection, which boosts the immune system in the tumour area, significantly reduced the risk of patients dying or needing further treatment within 10 years.

Out of a test group of 30 patients who were given the experimental treatment a decade ago, two developed secondary cancers that proved to be fatal, while in a control group of 20 patients, six died and another three needed further surgery after their cancer returned.

Melanomas are fast spreading cancers that have a high rate of return, sometimes after a long period, meaning studies need to be carried out for several years. But by the time the effectiveness of the injection became clear drug manufacturers had stopped producing it because the patent had run out, meaning it was no longer profitable.

Immunologist and researcher Tanja de Gruijl said the pharmaceutical industry had stopped developing the medicine after a number of earlier tests produced negative results. ‘The industry loses interest when that happens,’ she told NOS Radio 1 Journaal.

‘But since then a new generation of medicines have come to market and we want to repeat these tests on larger groups of patients,’ De Gruijl added.

The number of melanoma cases in the Netherlands rose by 15% last year to 6787, compared to 1554 in 1990. Doctors say the rise is due to the growing popularity of sunbathing, as well as increased awareness of the condition. Around 800 people die each year as a result of melanoma.


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End of ‘gipsvlucht’ flights home for hapless skiers


Wintersports fans who break a leg on the Austrian ski slopes this winter will no longer go home on a gipsvlucht or ‘plaster cast flight’, public broadcaster NOS reported on Friday.

The flights, operated by Austrian Tyrol Air Ambulance between Innsbrück and Rotterdam airport, were started in the early 1980s. Over the years the number of flights carrying hapless skiers has been falling and the service is no longer viable, NOS said.

Some 50 people used the service last year. The arrival of the first gipsvlucht was a winter television news staple.

People who come a cropper in Austria will now have to rely on transport by ambulance, taxi, or regular plane service.

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Pill packaging causes problems for older people, according to new study

Older people find it difficult to access their medicines due to poorly-designed packaging, according to a new study.

Kim Notenboom of Utrecht University, was on Wednesday defending her PhD thesis promoting patient-friendly medicine and packaging, alongside a symposium on the subject.

According to the NOS broadcaster, she asked elderly people and adolescents to try to break through 12 tablets. She found the older people only succeeded one in three times, while almost all who participated had practical problems with using the medicines that could affect their health.

She told the broadcaster: ‘[The pharmaceutical industry] only pays attention to the safety, efficacity and quality of the drugs. User friendliness is almost never studied, but this can certainly have an effect on their working and on safety.

‘If a patient can only take medicines when a neighbour helps, this will cause problems when the neighbour is on holiday.’

The CBG medicine evaluation board recognised that there is a problem, and is helping draft a directive to ensure medicines for older people are easier to use.


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MPs back the right to die at home or in a hospice

Health insurers should not be able to refuse help to patients who want to die in their own homes, a majority of MPs said during a debate on palliative care in the Netherlands.

MPs called on junior health minister Martin van Rijn to make sure that insurers are not able to refuse the wish of the terminally-ill to die at home, simply because they have not bought in enough care services.

Currently some people are being forced to stay in hospital or find themselves re-admitted to hospital even though they want to die at home or in a hospice, according to an RTL Nieuws report.

The broadcaster said one in five hospitals and hospices it spoke to reported that some patients were not being allowed to die at home because of the shortage of trained nursing staff.

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Waiting times for abortion increase at Casa clinics

Abortion pills                                      Photo: Women on Waves

Hundreds of Dutch women need to wait more time than usual for an abortion at Casa abortion clinics, reports the Volkskrant on Tuesday.

There is especial demand among women who are more than 18 weeks’ pregnant and seeking a ‘late’ abortion, since one of three specialised Casa clinics offering this procedure has closed.

Due to a reorganisation and the partial bankruptcy of Casa, there is reportedly more pressure on its two clinics offering late abortions, as well as its seven clinics offering other procedures.

On Monday afternoon caretaker health minister Edith Schippers and the abortion clinic boards met and pledged to set up a working group to ensure proper abortion care continues.

Half of the 31,000 abortions performed annually in the Netherlands had been carried out at the organisation’s clinics.

Chairman of the board Ron Leenders told the Volkskrant they are working on overcoming staff shortages: ‘It won’t be until halfway through 2018 that the clinics in Amsterdam and Rotterdam will be functioning fully again,’ he reportedly said.

Earlier this month, an investigation by the Nederlands Dagblad alleged that it had found irregular billing practices for public subsidies at the clinics from 2000 to 2014, something that Leenders denied.

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New vaccine to combat rise of meningitis W strain

Children are to be given an enhanced meningitis vaccine following a sharp rise in the number of cases in the last year.

The current vaccine, introduced in 2002, protects against the C strain of the disease, but in the last two years Meningitis W has been on the increase. So far in 2017 there have been 47 recorded cases compared to 50 for the whole of last year.

The new vaccine will be given to babies at 14 months and protects against the A, C, W and Y strains. Children in the first two years of secondary school will also be encouraged to have the immunisation as teenagers are among the group most at risk from meningitis infection, along with babies and the elderly.

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Interpol cracks down on illegal medicine trade, 10 Dutch websites shut

An annual Interpol campaign to stop illegal medicine shipments resulted in the seizure  315 packages of illegal pharmaceuticals which were destined for the Netherlands, Dutch health ministry inspectors said on Monday.

The five day operation, named Pangea X, also resulted in the closure of 10 websites in the Netherlands which were involved in the illegal drugs trade and three cases have been referred to the public prosecution department.

In total, 10,000 packages destined for Dutch buyers were checked on their contents. The 317 packets which were confiscated contained almost 50,000 doses, the inspectors said.

Although just 315 packages were seized in the Netherlands, this is up 61 on last year’s crack-down, broadcaster NOS said. Most contained erection aids, slimming pills and tranquilisers.

Worldwide, 715,000 packages were checked during the campaign, which was held for the 10th time this September.

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