Thursday

18th Jan 2018

Spending cuts undermine healthcare in eastern EU countries

Austerity measures in former Communist EU countries have taken a heavy toll on underpaid and overworked doctors, with a state of emergency still ongoing in Slovakia after a mass walk-out.

The Slovak government is to meet on Wednesday (7 December) to discuss whether to lift the state of emergency after a deal was struck with the striking doctors. Some 1,600 medical staff resigned last week, prompting the crisis.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Slovakia had to borrow Czech army doctors to face the crisis (Photo: wikipedia)

Three quarters of them agreed on Saturday to come back to work after the government promised a salary increase of 40 percent. But most of them had not done so by Tuesday pending an analysis of the new deal.

Neighbouring Czech Republic sent some 30 army doctors to help out, while hospitals in Poland and Austria were preparing to take Slovak patients.

The mass resignations come after years of brain-drain to wealthier countries. Lucia Hippova, a 27-year old doctor told AFP she was earning €430 a month in a small Slovak hospital and left for Germany where she started on €1,890. "After three years, my salary reached €3,200," she said.

A euro member since 2009, Slovakia is trying to cut its way from a 4.9 percent of GDP deficit to the eurozone limit of 3 percent by 2013.

Similar cuts in non-euro members Hungary and Romania could also provoke a Slovak-type medical crisis.

Istvan Eger, head of the Hungarian Medical Chamber, said a similar situation could soon arise in his country and asked doctors to refrain from going to work in Slovakia out of solidarity for striking peers.

Meanwhile, the Hungarian Trainee Doctors Federation is collecting letters of resignation from members to submit to the government on 31 December if the situation does not improve.

The Romanian Medical Council has also warned that it may follow the Slovak example after the government ignored theirdemands on the 2012 budget.

"Doctors have are exhausted beyond limits and cannot take it any more," the council said in a statement. It warned that the new fee envisaged by the government for next year, obliging patients to pay for part of their medical services, will hit the most vulnerable people: pensioners and chronic patients. The measure is being introduced in line with demands by the EU and the International Monetary Fund, which lent Romania €20 billion in 2009.

In neighbouring Bulgaria, the health care budget is already unable to cover the needs of its patients.

"Bulgaria's budget for 2012 allocates, yet again, just 4 percent of GDP for the health care sector, which falls a long way short of the money needed to guarantee security for the Bulgarian patients, high-quality services, prevention and access to modern treatment," Heath Protection, a patients' organisation, said.

EU posted workers face hurdles

Negotiations among the EU institutions will start soon, but could be difficult on several issues - like the inclusion of the transport sector or the duration of a posting.

EU overcomes divisions on posted workers

After a 12-hour discussion, EU employment ministers struck a compromise to reform the rules on workers posted in another country. The principle of equal pay for equal work has been adopted but the transport sector will get special treatment.

Opinion

EU's 'old men' must pressure Poland on abortion rights

Despite fresh crackdowns on Poland's already restrictive abortion laws, EU commission president Juncker did not raise the issue with the new Polish PM Morawiecki - perhaps because it was an all-male event?

News in Brief

  1. Catalan parliament elects separatist speaker
  2. Czech government resigns
  3. MEPs back tighter export rules on cyber tech
  4. Annual eurozone inflation at 1.4 percent in December
  5. EPP group calls for 'European Netflix'
  6. Ex-MEP Goulard slated for senior French bank post
  7. Luxembourg speaks out in support of Palestinian state
  8. Danish fishing communities to be hit hard by Brexit, says report

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other Border Regions on How Countries Can Work Together to Generate Growth
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  4. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  5. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  6. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  8. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  9. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  10. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted
  11. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  12. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda