The Cosantran, Cosanwalfran and Cosanvlaamsfran Initiatives allow residents of five cross-border regions to receive the most effective medical care

At the initiative of the Franco-Belgian Health Observatory (OFBS), French and Belgian healthcare providers work together to pool knowledge and resources for the benefit of thousands of patients.

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" Cross-border collaboration in emergency medical care is a response to concerns about patient care, and is a type of model that could be of interest to every Euroregion. It is about exploring avenues for the future and from our angle it is about better prospects for people who may be our patients tomorrow. "

Doctor Patrick Goldstein, Head of the Emergency Department in Lille University Hospital

In 2013, 15 000 patients living in cross-border regions of Northern France and Belgium (Walloon and Flemish regions) were able to enjoy high-quality healthcare outside their own country, such as access to local healthcare services, cutting edge technology and emergency services. They did not encounter financial or administrative problems relating to ‘foreign’ healthcare. This was made possible by the three Interreg initiatives led by the OFBS, which have established effective collaboration between hospitals in border regions and the French and Belgian sickness funds.

Since 2008 more than 40 000 residents of French-Belgian border areas have benefited from this collaboration, which was launched via the creation of organized access zones for cross-border health care (ZOASTs).

This cross-border collaboration can manifest in several ways: for example, the town of Maubeuge (FR) has kept its oncology department and included a specialist from Mons (BE), whilst some French women living 20 km away from the University Hospital in Dinant (BE) now have antenatal care and give birth there, rather than travelling 60 km to the hospital in Charleville-Mézières (FR).

Breaking down administrative and legal barriers

This type of collaboration needed a huge amount of advance planning, undertaken by the OFBS, and involving various agreements, including two framework agreements, as well as monitoring and evaluation commissions. It has overcome the administrative, legal and financial obstacles relating to the two different health systems, which were previously only accessible to their own residents. These problems have been ironed out mainly through the good will and drive of the management and finance authorities of the healthcare facilities, along with the service providers.

According to Henri Lewalle, coordinator of these initiatives, ‘Franco-Belgian cooperation in health matters is now a model in terms of methodology for future decision-makers and potential field actors in collaborative projects.’

Total investment and EU contribution

The total investment in the Cosantran, Cosanwalfran and Cosanvlaamsfran initiatives is EUR 1 131 356, EUR 783 086 and EUR 493 938, respectively. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) contribution for the 2007-2013 period was EUR 571 431, EUR 394 543 and EUR 252 788, respectively, as part of the programme entitled ‘INTERREG IV France-Wallonie-Vlaanderen’ (INTERREG IV France-Wallonia-Flanders).

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