Czech Republic near bottom in consumer group study of European health care

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How healthy is the Czech Republic's health care system? Not very, according to a new Europe-wide study by a consumer body called the Health Consumer Powerhouse. It ranks the Czech Republic 22nd in the 25-member European Union. The study takes into account five areas - patients' rights and information, waiting time for treatment, results of health care, the "generosity" of public healthcare systems, and access to medicines. Dita Asiedu reports:

The Czech Republic takes care of its citizens, appears to be good on diabetes care, has the highest level of visits to doctors per citizen in Europe (15 times a year on average) but cannot afford modern pharmaceuticals, the report from the Health Consumer Powerhouse organisation concludes. While this analysis may not sound so bleak, the country ranks near the bottom of the list in Europe. Arne Bornberg headed the team that conducted the study in the Czech Republic:

"You have very good access to everyday health services like medical checkups with primary doctors and dentists but rather limited access to more advanced treatment and to sophisticated pharmaceuticals. It seems that is the way the system has been built up - to be very good at everyday caretaking but lagging behind on more advanced treatments."

Czech pharmacists agree. They say the hands of specialists and hospitals are tied due to a new health ministry directive that limits the number of prescription drugs prescribed. According to health minister designate Tomas Julinek, some pharmaceutical companies do not bother to introduce their latest products on the Czech market because local prices, which are controlled by the finance ministry, are set too low.

But Health Minister David Rath says results of a different study conducted by US experts suggest the Czech health care system is one of the most effective in Europe. He adds that good quality health care is accessible for a price that is one third of the European average.

Health Minister David Rath, photo: CTK
"We visited a great number of countries and held meetings at health ministries. Unfortunately I have to say that we had a very nice meeting in Prague but we never received any reply afterwards when we asked for the completion and validation of the data we had. We have been working very hard at finding an indicator for diabetes care and the very limited data that are available suggest that the Czech Republic and Spain are two countries that do that very well. And we are very sad that data unavailability did not allow us to include that indicator in the 2006 index."

Overall, France ranked first on the Euro Health Consumer Index, closely followed by the Netherlands and Germany. In terms of amounts of money spent on healthcare, the report says, Slovenia and Estonia deliver excellent value for money to their citizens. This is the first time that the Czech Republic was included in the rating. The Health Consumer Powerhouse organisation hopes the Czech Republic will enjoy a more favourable ranking next year after it has gained access to more data and information for its Euro Health Consumer Index 2007.