Surprisingly many people living in cities struggle to get access to health care and social services
A social inclusion project in Brussels is attempting to address that. The initiative was set up in the Belgian capital to provide medical care and other public services. Smart Regions went to find out more.
In the Brussels region, a large number of people have no access to basic health care. According to NGO Médecin du Monde, 30% of residents in and around the Belgian capital are not registered with a GP.
That was the case for Pietro before he found the Ribaucare health and social centre in Molenbeek.
It offers a range of services for the elderly, homeless and those with drug addiction problems - making sure they have access to proper care and support.
"The service we offer here is a kind of comprehensive care with different entry points. We focus on providing medical care, social services, debt management advice, psychological support. These kinds of social issues come up regularly during a medical consultation," said Thomas Vaessen, a doctor at the centre.
Originally from Italy, Pietro arrived in Belgium almost six years ago. He first came to the centre seeking help, but now organises theatre courses there.
"It's an experience that goes beyond the simple fact of coming here because you have a pain or a problem. There is a kind of human encounter happening in this place," Pietro explains.
"Working 360° degrees around the person"
Traditionally fragmented services have been brought under one roof in an effort to have a more effective patient-centred approach.
Director-General Pierre Verbeeren oversees the initiative with the help of Médecin du Monde and other local medical centres and social services.
"The concept we’re working on is the idea of global well-being. That means working 360° degrees around the person. The most important services we provide are health care, mental health services, and social services to help with housing, legal issues, access to benefits, but also help with finding work and obtaining other resources,” he says.
The total cost of the social initiative came to nearly 7.5 million euros. 3.72 million of which was funded by the European Cohesion Policy.
The project includes two health and social centres. The second one is still being built in Cureghem, Anderlecht, one of the more deprived districts in the Brussels region.
"The aim of this centre is to be very accessible, so it will be multilingual and offer a wide range of activities and services. We estimate that we should be able to receive around 5,000 to 6,000 people here per year,’’ says Katrien Van Remortel, Coordinator of the Integrated Health and Social Centre Project in Anderlecht.
The centre in Cureghem is due to open in spring next year. The hope is it will help unite the disparate areas in that part of the city.