With 63-year-old Conny Helder, who will be managing the Ministry of Health together with Ernst Kuipers, the VVD is bringing someone with a lot of experience in healthcare into the cabinet. In recent years, Helder has repeatedly spoken out in favor of a new course in elderly care. She has been awarded the portfolio Long-term Care and Sport.
According to her, this new course cannot be avoided: the number of elderly people will increase sharply in the coming decades and there will be more and more elderly people with dementia. This is expected to lead to a shortage of personnel: the Social and Economic Council has calculated that the shortage of employees will be 600,000 in twenty years’ time. Helder can now continue her mission to do something about this as a minister.
“It will take some getting used to in the beginning,” says Helder, pointing to her lack of political experience. She thought for a while before saying yes. “It is a tough job, especially in this time, you hear from different sides.”
She says she will take her criticism of the current state of affairs in her new job with her. “I have a very big heart for healthcare. I have been working in healthcare all my life. I know very well what is going on.”
Before her move to The Hague, Helder, who started her career as a surgical assistant, was a board member of the sector organization ActiZ and chairman of the board of the TanteLouise care institution in Bergen op Zoom. In that capacity, she already argued for better working conditions and salaries for healthcare staff.
According to Helder, there should be a social discussion about the choices in health care. Actiz, along with other organizations, submitted a manifesto for change. The message is that the elderly must take center stage again and the human dimension must be returned.
Dry chair and dry bed
Helder is also a strong supporter of the use of innovative healthcare technology. According to her, people can live longer at home with better technology and tools. But there is still much room for improvement in care in institutions, she believes. “Everyone deserves a dry chair and a dry bed.”
Employees of TanteLouise characterize her as a powerful administrator, who had to make difficult decisions during the corona crisis and weigh up the interests of staff, residents and family. For example, when they considered having staff wear masks as a preventive measure, but noticed that this led to confusion among people with dementia in her institution, they chose not to.
Helder is also known for her criticism of the complex regulations in healthcare. There are too many rules and they are sometimes too complicated. She believes that the registration burden must be reduced.
“A new cabinet will have to make clear choices in the crisis in elderly care,” she said this spring. She is now partly responsible for those choices.