WONCA Europe is Working

Dear Colleagues, Dear Members of Member Organizations of WONCA Europe

Welcome to the WONCA Europe monthly Newsletter. As I informed you before in April, for your safety, upon recommendation of the DEGAM, PCO, HoC and WECC, our executive board has agreed on postponing the regular WONCA Europe Berlin Conference from June to December, as there was no other date and venue option due to massive postponements of all conferences in Berlin. Thinking that we would be able to travel 6 months after the original date we were happy to meet those who would be able to come. We would have participated in face-to-face workshops, welcome reception, socialised in the gala dinner, maybe noticing a change in the hair colour, in mood, seeing the body language, talking on the COVID-19 and how it touches all our lives.

Increasing violence towards health professionals, mainly including GPs/FDs, legal problems demotivating PC service providers. We have various webinars, with various people talking on very rapidly inclusion of Telemedicine/Digital Health into daily practice although lack of a well established legal or regulatory base. Lack of PPE still  in many parts of Europe, poor health literacy, poor selfcare, poor respect in some PC settings sadly ending with thousands of “falling stars”. A GP/FD is a star but modest, touchable, visible and extremely careful for its community, a very valuable one. Now we are losing stars one by one, and still putting ourselves in front-lines fighting in these pandemic waves. We are all saddened with the loss of all those physicians, PC professionals and informal caregivers, and of course also more than a million patients all around the world. I wish their souls to be in peace. I wish their families power to live with this. The governments shall see the fact that those are all occupational deaths. As of 30 September 2020, there have been 5846000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and including 236714 deaths, reported to WHO Europe, for our region, and average daily increase is 11,6% showing an incline. Most of the cases are from Russia, Spain, France, UK, Turkey, Italy and Germany until now according to the WHO data.

Most of the places we are not heard by the governments as they are focusing on their regular job. But COVID-19 pandemic showed us how governance measures may be meaningless when it spreads all around the world, how hopeless to stop it, unlike some regional problems, how weak humans are against such biological or natural disasters like in this pandemic. It showed us how valuable our profession is and probably this pandemic will end the discussion on the future of family doctors, which seems to me as forever with current unfortunate experience. “The real heroes & heroines of the pandemic are all the health workers who are tirelessly working to both help their communities & amplify their voices” as the WHO Director General Dr Tedros said. We all discovered totally different life, also including us, GPs/FDs and we are once more aware that health and safety is most important in real life.  

In the meantime my executive board members and me realized several activities like, webinars with directors of WHO Europe, joint webinars with WHO EMRO, 4th of July Joint Meeting with WHO Europe & WONCA Europe; “Family Doctors & WHO & Pandemic: the way forward; meetings with organizations in collaboration like ECCO, EMA, UEMO, EFPC, meetings for new training activities, WONCA Europe Statement for 70th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe; “Digital Health & Telemedicine in PC Addressing also Inequity in Rural Health”, we supported the WHO World Patient Safety Day for health professionals, started to create articles like Struggle with COVID-19: A Cross-border View;also interview articles like in Scandinavian Journal of General Practice, presidential letters to MOs on COVID, Family Doctors Day 19th May celbration with a short video, script where whole EB taking place by one message in our native languages to our colleagues keeping all of us motivated in this very challenging pandemic period, On-line training program on COVID-19 management. WONCA Europe joint the consortium created by International Society for the Study and Exchange of evidence from Clinical research And Medical experience (ISSECAM) and European Academy of Teachers in General Practice/Family Medicine (EURACT), contractuel issues like Amsterdam, London meetings, advisory and contract issues for the editor of EJGP who very successfully raised the IF from 1.6 to almost 2.5, an incredible jump, many other webinars like series of the COVID webinars of World. Apart from all at least once a month EB online meetings continued. I think when you read the report to the council you will better see the links referring to the work in case you would be interested in.

Yes, if COVID would let us to travel abroad, or gather in a conference hall, we would have been meeting face to face, having a fresh air or at least transferring to a better mood, and then we would say goodbye, with a lot of new ideas, until the next WONCA Europe conference. It has been traditionally happening until 2020 when we should celebrate the 25th anniversary year of WONCA Europe. But things are not always as it is planned. Now we have other concerns and decisions with the new wave and WONCA Europe fully supports DEGAM’s decision regardless of the final decision – cancellation or online conference as they kindly try to avoid damage to MOs. Germany will currently only allow EU citizens, EU residents, and residents of certain other specific countries (four now) to enter but also this will be bound to certain conditions if the travelers come from an area with high COVID-19 risk. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions are in place for entry into Germany from a large number of countries. Moreover, persons arriving from many countries are obliged to come with actual negative tests or to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. DEGAM German College, decided not to go forward with a face to face meeting and wish to totally cancel the event but due to financial considerations they still are trying to find if a virtual one should be done. A decision will be provided by DEGAM. We had letters from MOs asking us to hear the bylaws and nomination committees' recommendation and to draw back the nomination call made 6 months prior to the expected meeting date. Taking into consideration committees, HoC, MO and WONCA World recommendations WONCA Europe EB concluded to cancel the nomination by postponing the council meeting to the Amsterdam Conference. We will be informed by DEGAM if a virtual conference will be held and how it will be organized. We expect our core PCO to find the best solution together with DEGAM who tries to limit the damage both financially and organizationally. Even a virtual meeting does not seem to help with the financial problems as you know full delegate registrations decreased roughly from 1800 to 900 in the last 5 years in face to face normal conferences. And junior doctors dropped from 1200 to 600 (last three years constantly around 600). It is not realistic to expect any income. If the virtual one is decided it still includes plenaries from Amanda Howe and Donald Li and WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge. As I mentioned another influence may be, as you might have already noticed, the dates are still problematic because of proximity to Christmas holiday. Of course we left decisions to DEGAM as all conditions changed once more by COVID-19 second wave. Please follow the actual news from DEGAM & WONCA Europe.

After the December Berlin 2020 Conference, the next WONCA Europe Conference is Amsterdam 2021, and this time there is considerably a shorter interval, a little more or less than 6 months after Berlin and 6 months before from the already postponed Abu Dhabi World Conference and Council.

Please follow the new web IT system for detailed information in coming weeks.

Hope you have health and be safe in the coming months, and looking forward to hugging you all in one of those face to face meetings in 2021.

Kind regards

Prof. Dr. Mehmet Ungan
President of WONCA Europe