The European Hospital and Healthcare Federation (HOPE) has published a report on the impact of the economic and financial crisis on the continent’s healthcare systems. The paper also analyses the measures taken to combat the impact of the financial turmoil on healthcare professionals and patients. The report, entitled "The Crisis, Hospitals and Healthcare," also includes a comparative country study of the situation in 20 European countries.
The effect of the crisis on hospitals and healthcare varies across Europe depending on the general impact of the economic downturn in a given country and the measures taken as a result. A number of European countries have adopted measures to increase public investment in health and undergo reforms to support citizens during these turbulent times. For instance, in Austria and Cyprus there have been recent VAT cuts on medication and pharmaceutical products; in Germany, healthcare tax deductions and reduced contributions rate to healthcare insurance have been implemented; and in Sweden, additional resources to key welfare services including health care have been granted.
Yet, this is not always the case. In several EU countries, government budget cutbacks coupled with structural health and social insurance reforms have had numerous repercussions affecting healthcare services, health professionals and patients across Europe. In Latvia, a dramatic decrease in health expenditure is badly hitting hospital care and other health budget cuts. Patients already affected by the reduction in services and the out-of-pocket payments incurred have seen a considerable decrease in the access and affordability of care. Moreover, in Romania, additional fees for medical services and patients’ out-of-pocket payments for treatment, hospitalisations and pharmaceuticals have gone up.
In a number of countries such as Cyprus, there have been recent health-professional recruitment freezes. In addition, in countries like Latvia, medical wages have undergone massive cuts. In Romania, salaries were reduced by 25 percent in 2010, leading to an increase in the ’brain drain’ effect - large numbers of health professionals leaving the country to seek better working conditions elsewhere.
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EPHA is organising its Annual Conference on the impact of the crisis on health systems and public health on June 6th at the European Economic and Social Committee. You can register here