24 percent of population remains without healthcare, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences alarms

Photo: archive

Budget 2018 has been adopted at first reading in the National Assembly. The next step of MPs is to vote for a new Minister of Healthcare. The ruling GERB party did not focus on a person from the medical circles but offered the position to financier Kiril Ananiev. The dispute whether a doctor or finance expert should lead the health ministry is old. Doctors fear that as an economist has now been proposed, this probably means the government has completely lost its trust in medics.

"Healthcare in Bulgaria is falling apart" - this is the conclusion of Prof. Dr. Zdravka Toneva of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, based on a national survey over the past three years. The focus of the project, in which various scientists - physicians, sociologists, and analysts took part, is "Health, quality of life, inequalities". Collected data literally amazed medics from the team of Associate Professor Toneva. It turns out that a quarter of the country's population has practically no access to medical and even paramedical help. Many people in villages not only do not go to see a doctor, but they do not buy any medicines. The problem is that in many villages there are no pharmacies, while transport to the city is unaffordable to a large number of pensioners. The analysis of the survey in Bulgaria shows that the main reason that has led to a breakdown in the system is the transformation of important healthcare institutions into profitable commercial companies. Paradoxically, many hospitals are now piling up debts while doctors work in them for months without receiving remuneration.

The BAS study on quality of life of Bulgarians that has already addressed healthcare issues started in 2014. It covered 2340 respondents from different parts of the country. From data gathered, it become clear that there was a trend for the state to shift to taxpayers the cost of their own health.

"There is currently a discussion about the failed health reform. Thanks to it, doctors and hospitals became commercial companies and started to work for profit. People from small towns and villages found themselves in the worst situation. It is unthinkable that 24% of the population were left without any medical care. The medical expenses of Bulgarians are considerable. The largest share of costs goes to hospitals and for medical supplies. Cost of rehabilitation and examinations is also big. This leads to even greater social inequalities among Bulgarians as for the highly vulnerable groups in case of illness, treatment costs 50 to 90% of their salary or pension. According to data analysis, these are catastrophically high numbers. In our report, we also point out other groups of people where treatment costs outweigh their incomes, and they are forced to get loans for hospital stays, supplies and medicines. The bad thing is that most political figures are not interested in data and research made by scientists, especially sociologists," associate professor Toneva says.

"With associate professor Toneva we have long observed these problems, examined them and analyzed them. With the help of this project, we have been able to collect specific information about the healthcare system and the quality of life of Bulgarians," says Dr. Bozhidar Yovkov, head of the study. And more:

"This process of incorporating market principles in health care is detrimental to people. Healthcare is one of the most important and problematic sectors in society. There are many economic interests here; health has become a commodity, profit is above all, and so we have reached a stalemate. In our work we found huge imbalances between the health costs of patients in public and private hospitals. There are huge costs for fees and supplies. There are strong and profound inequalities between citizens of the capital city and the villages, as well as between different age groups. The most vulnerable are elderly people who rely solely on pensions. They often take loans for medical treatment. In general, the situation is alarming and problems have been growing. "

English: Alexander Markov

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