Second-rate approach to healthcare and patients? problems

Today?s resignation of the Minister for Health, Alenka Trop Skaza, reflects the lack of seriousness and comprehensive approach to solving problems in our healthcare sector by the Government of the Republic of Slovenia under Alenka Bratušek. The reasons for the resignation of Trop Skaza are not new and should have been taken into account when the Prime Minister decided to nominate her. They should also have been food for thought for the entire coalition during the debate on her ministerial candidature in the National Assembly. It is irresponsible that underlying problems were overlooked and that after barely one month the citizens of Slovenia are once again without much needed leadership in such a sensitive portfolio. Unfortunately, it is the patients that suffer the most from the consequences of such behaviour.

Hereinafter, I will present my views on the current situation of the healthcare system. I must regretfully come to the conclusion that all the different problems from the past remain unchanged, with solutions still far from being realised.

Situation in the healthcare system:

? Question of patient safety,

? Different position of stakeholders on the goals of healthcare reform,

? Corruption,

? Lack of funding,

? Carefree attitude of the Government,

? Poor organisation, long waiting lists and waiting times,

? Aversion to the introduction of an eHealth system,

? Imbalance between effectiveness and salaries,

? On average we visit our doctor 7 times a year.

Why the system needs to be improved:

? Because health is a source of prosperity for society as a whole,

? because the number of chronically ill patients continues to increase, with almost 400.000 in Slovenia,

? because the decline of our GDP means that there will be less money available for financing healthcare,

? because we need to improve the trust of patients,

? because our average age and levels of disease continue to increase.

How to improve the healthcare system:

1. The goal of reforms should be to once again establish a balance between satisfied patients and healthcare providers. We need to maintain our system of public healthcare, while ensuring a balance between public health institutions and concession holders.

2. We need to fight against corruption. In order to achieve this goal, we need highly trained personnel, who would be responsible for investments, purchase of medicines and equipment and who would be more knowledgeable than the providers. The other condition that needs to be put into place is a system of excellence, both in the process of healthcare and in its operation, and a transparent introduction of an eHealth system.

3. We need to establish trust between patients, doctors and other healthcare practitioners. Information databases need to be set up for each patient and the latter need to be informed that not every treatment requires a visit to the specialist. We must also increase the role of primary healthcare by giving doctors more time to talk with their patients. We must urgently simplify administrative procedures, set up better time planning and the work on the basis of the ?empty waiting room? principle.

4. The funding shortage will be resolved with the introduction of a more transparent overview of spending, principles of excellence and introduction of realistic standards. Where it is safe to do so, telemedicine and in absentia healthcare (distance treatment) should be implemented and used.

5. As concerns the carefree attitude of the Slovenian Government: in Europe, health is the common denominator of all policies. The health of individuals does not only depend on the healthcare system and health policy, but on all sectorial policies. The Government should be aware of this!

6. Poor organisation is either resolved or further complicated by people. The healthcare system should be led by competent individuals, people who would encourage team work, who would know to how control costs, who would pay attention to the quality of patient services and who would have the knowledge and the will to implement the system of eHealth.

7. The aversion to setting up an eHealth system is fuelled by the advantages accrued from the lack of transparency in the current system. The system should be built from the ground up, with the precondition of seeing the big picture. European funds are available to achieve this goal. This way, patients will not have to undergo separate examinations in each of the specialised institutions. At the same time, without an eHealth system, insurance agencies buy medicines and medical equipment in a non-transparent fashion.

8. Imbalances between effectiveness and salaries are a problem because you cannot establish criteria for work that is not measured. Consequently, such work cannot be rewarded on the basis of effectiveness.

9. We need awareness programmes on healthy lifestyles, and the interaction between healthy, quality food and health, as well as on better relations in our society.

-Zofija Mazej Kukovič

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