"Medi Interim redeploys flex workers to refugee shelters"

Just as the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe was receding, the continent was confronted with another crisis: the war in Ukraine. In a matter of weeks millions of Ukrainians fled their country. Some found shelter in the Netherlands. Medi Interim, part of RGF Staffing the Netherlands, moved quickly to enable its flex workers to help refugees.

Many Medi Interim flex workers who, not so long ago, manned the Covid-19 test and vaccination sites of the Municipal Health Services (GGD), now help these refugees. It’s important and very satisfying work, performed by highly motivated people.

In the morning to the vaccination site, in the afternoon to the refugee centre

When Bianca Berkhout was asked if she wanted to help, she did not hesitate. "Medi Interim was looking for a location manager for the refugee center in the town of Roelofarendsveen, between Amsterdam and Rotterdam. My job as vaccine coordinator at the Municipal Health Centre (GGD) was coming to an end. During the first few weeks, I combined my work for refugees with my job at GGD. In the mornings, I went to the vaccination site, in the afternoons I worked at the refugee center. I have since been able to transfer my duties at the GGD to someone else, so now I can focus fully on helping the refugees."

Taking the best possible care of the refugees, signaling and passing on problems to the municipality, and above all keeping the peace. This is how Bianca describes her tasks as location manager in the Roelofarendsveen center, which accommodates 61 Ukrainian refugees.

Lots of experience in crisis situations

Medi Interim has already helped more than one hundred flex workers to transition from a job at GGD to a role at shelter homes for refugees from Ukraine. And that number continues to grow. "Together with colleagues at ASA, we have had a very busy two years working for GGD. We provided the medical staff for the vaccination sites, and ASA the students who work at these sites on a flexible basis," says Jantine Pater, Medi Interim’s director. "Now that the pandemic is over and GGD is reducing its pool of flex workers, we are trying to transfer everyone to other positions in the best possible way. It is a big advantage that we have gained a lot of experience in crisis situations. Our recruiters now know exactly which profiles are needed in a crisis. They only need half a word. That means we can switch very quickly and efficiently."

In the Netherlands, the accommodation of Ukrainian refugees is arranged regionally (through 25 so-called Security Regions) and implemented by municipalities. Pater points out the complexity: "It helps when you know the structures and processes. If you are not familiar with both, you can get bogged down in bureaucracy."

Switching between two clients

There is another advantage to the fact that Medi Interim now works for both GGD’s Covid-19 test and vaccination sites and the municipal accommodation facilities for Ukrainian refugees: it is fairly easy for flex workers to switch between two jobs. Dolf Verburg, for instance, did just that. For 35 years, he worked as a general practitioner in Borne, in the east of the Netherlands. During the Covid-19 pandemic, he worked as a supervising doctor at GGD. “I still work there, but the workload is decreasing as more and more vaccination sites are being phased out.”

That gave Verburg the opportunity to answer ‘yes’ when Arts & Specialist (part of Medi Interim) asked him if he was available to help refugees from Ukraine who are accommodated in the nearby city of Almelo. "These people need care," says Verburg, "so as a doctor with time on his hands you can't say no." One morning a week he is available for medical questions and issues in the refugee center in Almelo, where 250 Ukrainians are staying. Arts & Specialist has so far transferred over 20 physicians from GGD positions to work in refugee centers.

Both Berkhout and Verburg agree that their work gives them a lot of satisfaction. "I worked for years in a nursing home with people suffering from dementia," says Berkhout. "But when Covid-19 spread and caused casualties there, I felt a strong urge to help to fight the pandemic myself. One phone call to Medi Interim and I was ready to go. As location manager at GGD, I could put my knowledge and experience to good use, and now I can make a real contribution at the refugee center. No matter how big the challenge is, I drive home every evening feeling satisfied.” Verburg: "If we all help a little bit, we can make a difference for these people."

According to Jantine Pater, all flex workers who worked for GGD during the pandemic feel the same way about helping out in the refugee centers. "They are all people who are there when you need them. If GGD, a Security Region or any other authority responsible for fighting crises in the Netherlands calls us today, we can make sure that in no time at all 500 people will be ready to get to work and take care of things."

Portrait Jantine Pater
Jantine Pater