A patient is treated by a Médecins du Monde volunteer in October 2015
Photo: Médecins du Monde Luxembourg
Journal: Medical professionals are volunteering to help people who have fallen through Luxembourg’s social safety nets.
Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) was founded in France more than 30 years ago to provide medical assistance, both locally and globally, to vulnerable groups by promoting access and the right to healthcare for all. The Grand Duchy chapter was launched in 2014 primarily to assist the homeless and those ineligible for health cover through the Caisse nationale de santé, Luxembourg’s main health insurance fund, due to lack of documentation or residency.
“We offer free health care, without appointments, at Esperanza House in Bonnevoie on Tuesday and Thursday evenings between 7:30 and 9 p.m.,” explained the organisation’s manager in Luxembourg, Sylvie Martin. “We try to see as many people as possible during this time, but there can often be 50 people waiting for just one nurse or doctor, so it can be challenging.”
Médecins du Monde currently has 30 medically trained volunteers, including doctors, nurses, dentists and specialists such as ophthalmologists. “For the medical volunteers, it is an opportunity not only to benefit those in need but also develop their skills and responsibilities,” said Martin. In addition to medical professionals, the NGO relies on volunteers for patient translation and administrative help.
“We are currently 100% dependent on donations and partnerships,” she said. “But there are ongoing discussions with the ministre de la santé [health minister] to develop our services.” Local partnerships with associations such as Stëmm vun der Strooss, Serve the City and the Red Cross, and the major hospitals are essential to providing key services. “Our clients should receive the same level of care as you or I would,” argued Martin, “There should be no differentiation.”
The association’s headquarters are based in rue d’Audun in Esch and there is a weekly clinic every Thursday morning there between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. However, the greatest demand remains in the capital.
Looking for new location
In 2015 the Médecins du Monde facilities in Luxembourg and Esch-sur-Alzette had more than 500 visits, with the majority of those at Esperanza House. “We are currently looking for a permanent location near the Gare area in Luxembourg City, so that we can provide access to more people,” she stated. “If someone currently comes to Esperanza House and knows they will have to wait an hour or more, they just leave without medical attention.”
Those who find themselves homeless are particularly susceptible to respiratory infections, asthma and dermatitis. As a long term project, Médecins du Monde hopes not only to treat these diseases but provide preventive information to those at risk. It also welcomesdonations of common non-prescription medications, such as paracetamol or cough syrup, prior to their expiration date.
“Médecins du Monde is not as well known as Médecins Sans Frontières,” Martin states. “Both our organisations provide medical and humanitarian assistance, but at Médecins du Monde our focus is essentially on local and long term projects. It’s our job to help people, where we can, to be more self sufficient in the future.”