On April 15, during the televised press conference on the health crisis, a somewhat atypical journalist whom some of his « colleagues » considered a « troublemaker, » asked the Prime Minister about the very similar profiles of those tasked with finding the best solutions to the pandemic. It reported that the Secretary of State for testing and mask supply policy, Open-VLD Philippe De Backer, had been active in private companies in the bio-medical sector, including the Luxembourg company Vesalius Biocapital. The questioner suggested that this history might inform the policy choices of a central Covid-19 official. Ms. Sophie Wilmès dismissed the remark with a wave of her hand: « …people are free to change careers, people are free to commit to the common good, no matter what they did before and I can guarantee you that it’s not the company you work for that defines the man or woman you are… » And yet…
And yet, this April 27, Le Soir published a carte blanche co-signed by a group of doctors public laboratories of the Brussels hospitals « dismayed by the government’s management of the tests as they did not understand why university laboratories were excluded from the testing chain, to the benefit of big pharmaceutical companies .
In fact, if the country’s laboratories are consulted on their analytical capacity, the Testing Task Force considered that » clinical biology laboratories cannot meet the needs and decided to rely on the use of an old method brought to light by UNamur. Free from the constraints of commercial reagent supply but with little automation, this technique is deployed — with difficulty — on various academic platforms full of good will but without experience in mass laboratory medicine. Predictably, these laboratories will never reach the testing capabilities promised in the press releases. » But the university labs were not out of the woods: » …at the beginning of April, we learn incidentally but with astonishment that the main pharmaceutical industries of the country will be involved in the diagnosis. Suppliers are telling their customers — medical and research laboratories — that their PCR equipment(1) will be requisitioned and made available for a new massive screening structure. You then announced in the press impressive figures: 10,000, 20,000, 100,000 tests per day to be performed by this consortium composed of 2 university laboratories (UZ Leuven and ULiège) and 4 industrial partners (Biogazelle, GSK, J&J and UCB).
Thus therefore, the choices made by the Secretary of State and its Task Force, and regretted by the physicians of the services have resulted in an obvious inefficiency that all the observers regret. While it is said everywhere that the successes of Germany are largely due to the large number of tests (500.000 per week), in Belgium it is painfully low at 7.000 at 9,000 tests per day for more than 2 weeks.
The physicians in the public service clearly question the choices if we had accepted their offer of collaboration, » …the screening capacity in Belgium would far exceed this target of 10,000 per day for a long time. In fact, according to our estimates, their current daily capacity is 14,000 tests. One can imagine that it would have been increased tenfold if your support had been placed there rather than in the construction from novo of a parallel structure. »
All a state of mind
If questionable choices were made by the Secretary of State and his advisors, it is not said that it would be for reasons of cronyism with those they have frequented in their past. In fact, they are immersed in environments where neoliberal dogmas are circulating, but reality belies them constantly. Efficiency would be the prerogative of the private sector and the public would be costly and outdated. The solutions would be technological and never carried by humans. Thus, in the the clinical biology sector, for years, the laboratory assistants are progressively replaced by huge automated machines that can perform thousands of tests in a short time, with little human intervention. There too, a lot of capital can be invested to replace the men and women through advanced technologies. And it is precisely this the « great replacement » which is the corporate name of Vesalius Biocapital which » offers venture capital to young innovative European companies in the field of life sciences. »
When we are immersed in this kind of environment, we will naturally think that the solution to the health crisis lies with the private high-tech industries, start-ups or big pharma. No need for self-interested connections, no need for gains to make bad choices, it is an ideology that pushes to the error.
When the spokesperson for the public biologists, Frédéric Cotton says » we we’re employees, we’re not going to make more money because we’re test more. In fact, the opposite is true: performing a PCR test The total cost is 56€ while the refund is 48€, so we lose money! « , he obviously loses all credibility with those who are immersed in the mercantile thinking of the venture capitalists of Vesalius Biocapital. No wonder De Backer accuses the frustrated » biologists, that they » would like to their share of the cake « . This obviously shocks public service people who would only earn hours of work and not a penny more since they are employees who have an ideal: the health of their patients and the general population. They are still curious (and we also) » to know the budget and the cost of the tests on the side of the pharmas ».
We has here one more example of this managementdisease which is invading everything and especially the hospital sector that some destroy little by little by privileging only the profitability and budgetary savings, forgetting that it is the tools for public health.
A perverse ideology
Ms. Wilmès is therefore seriously mistaken when she justifies pantouflage or revolving doors (switching back and forth between the private sector oriented profit and the public sector oriented service collective). Our societies are slowly dying from this invasion of all sectors, including the health care sector, by the priorities of the capitalism. No, by changing responsibility, we are not suddenly covered by this » veil of ignorance that John Rawls dreamed of wrapping the decision-makers in so that they forget where they come from and act for the common good, without be influenced by their social origins or affiliations professional.
Philippe De Backer, and the majority of those in charge during this health crisis, are pure products of the ideology neoliberal. Even if they sincerely want the good of the population they are supposed to protect, they are filled with a doctrine of their class and their professional environment. This inevitably influences their choices, here in terms of who to they will entrust the tests.
But the question is much broader. Those who lead us do not live like the common man. Already, they are hardly confined, them, and when they take refuge at home, the evening or the weekend, it is not in the 50m² of a city apartment but in the of luxurious villas. Even in the face of the killer virus, we are not all in the same boat. It is true since the beginning of time, yet today it is not only a question of social injustice, it is also a question of a matter of life and death.
After PCR tests (which detect the presence of the virus in your naseaux), the State will have to entrust the execution of millions of tests serological tests (which check whether or not you are immune to this virus) to certain labs or others. Will they favour or will they call upon all the know-how, even those of the public? On In this regard, let’s leave the conclusion, which is not very reassuring, to the spokesperson for doctors who are faithful to the Hippocratic Oath, interviewed by Le Soir: » This seems to be off to a bad start as the first solicitations received this week of the authorities (…) have again destabilized. The instructions » little clear » come » from without prior consultation or respect for the usual procedures. » Obscurantism seems to continue in a dictatorial way.
- Polymerase Chain Reaction» ou PCR (ou encore ACP pour Amplification en Chaîne par Polymérase), est une technique de réplication ciblée in vitro. Elle permet d’obtenir, à partir d’un échantillon complexe et peu abondant, d’importantes quantités d’un fragment d’ADN spécifique et de longueur définie.