This exploratory opinion, requested by the French Presidency of the EU, has the following objectives:
This Own-initiative Opinion analyses the structural causes that have led to the elderly care systems in general and to the nursing homes in particular, to become some of the most contagious and lethal factors of this pandemic. To this end, the different systems that exist in EU Member States are compared to learn useful lessons.
In addition, the opinion calls for the need to address the demographic transition as one of the major challenges of the twenty-first century, alongside environmental and digital transitions.
The EESC welcomes the new EU Disability Rights Strategy, acknowledging that it is a clear step forward compared with the previous one. It is however concerned about the lack of binding measures and hard legislation implementing the Strategy.
Among other recommendations, the Committee regrets the lack of specific actions addressing the needs of women and girls with disabilities and calls for a specific flagship initiative in the second half of the period of the Strategy. It also calls for the full involvement and participation of organisations of persons with disabilities in the proposed Disability Platform. As regarding the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), the EESC feels it should be strongly linked to the Disability Strategy and used to help persons with disabilities recovering from the pandemic.
In this opinion the EESC:
- Welcomes Europe's Beating Cancer Plan as a milestone in the fight against cancer and calls for a concrete roadmap for its implementation, with performance indicators, realistic timeframes and close involvement of Social Partners (SP) and Civil Society Organisations (CSO).
- Considers important that the EU and Member States ensure the availability of igh-quality, accessible healthcare infrastructure and effective support systems for patients' physical and mental well-being.
- Asks for the negative consequences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in accessing to health services to be urgently addressed, recognising as well the supportive role SP and CSO can play in this area.
The EESC believes that evidence based processes like Health Technology Assessment (HTA) that is a key driver for socio-economic growth and innovation in the Union can be achieved through cooperation between Member States at Union level aiming at a high protection of health for patients and ensuring the smooth functioning of an inclusive Single Market. It is concerned about the set timelines of implementation and especially the delayed application of three years and believes that for the benefit of the patients and cost-effectiveness this could be shortened. In order to achieve the promise of digital health and care, of which HTA is part, the involvement of civil society is crucial.
The opinion, presenting EESC's position on the four proposals of the Health package published by the European Commission in November 2020, supports and welcomes these initiatives but draws the attention on some elements.
- The EU and Member States should ensure that everyone has equal access to quality, well staffed, well equipped health and social services. This is particularly important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic which has deepened existing inequalities.
- Special attention in future EU policies should be given to healthcare workers and the need to improve working conditions, including pay, recruitment and retention, as well as their health and safety.
- The new EU health package should be combined with the roll-out of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), particularly its principles 12, 16, 17 and 18 and the Action Plan on the EPSR. It should also be part of achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.
The revamped Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) is a tool through which the EU supports, coordinates and supplements actions of EU Member States in the field of civil protection in order to prevent, prepare and respond to natural and man-made disasters within and outside the EU. The new proposal aims to strengthen the UCPM to ensure that the EU and its Member States are better prepared to respond to large-scale emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.