VILNIUS - lithuania's health care system received the worst rating among the European Union's 25 members, while the commissioner for health and customer protection, Markos Kyprianou, said that he regards Lithuania to be one of the most unsafe countries in the EU.
An index of European health services, compiled by Health Consumer Powerhouse, an independent expert organization, was announced in Brussels this week. The report, based on 2003-2004 data, placed Lithuania at the bottom of 26 countries surveyed (Switzerland was included) in terms of the level of health services provided by the state.
The best health services ranked were in France, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. Besides Lithuania, the worst were in Ireland, Latvia, Estonia, Spain and Greece. In recent years Lithuanian doctors and health care workers have been emigrating en masse to EU countries in order to receive salaries commensurate with their skills, further exacerbating problems in the industry.
The head of the survey, Johan Hjertquist, told Lithuanian National Radio that the index was a serious signal to Lithuanian politicians, who have so far failed to relinquish the heritage of the downtrodden Soviet health care system.
Responding to Lithuania's ranking, Health Minister Zilvinas Padaiga said the disgraceful result was caused by a shortage of funds. Padaiga acknowledged that the problems highlighted in the report required attention, also stressing that the causes behind them lie in the insufficient funding of the health care system.
"I believe that the shortage of funds is the main reason. A series of indicators listed in the report depend on money. For instance, accession of new-generation medications to the market and service provisions are financial aspects," Padaiga said.
"Considering the percentage of the gross domestic product, Lithuania is only ahead of Latvia among 25 EU members in terms of funding. The funding saw a significant increase this year only," said the minister.
In his opinion, the ongoing reform of the health system will bring marked changes in the future, which will be reflected in the 2007 report.
The independent experts examined the efficiency of health systems with regard to consumers in all countries of the European Union and Switzerland. They explored 28 criteria including the accessibility of health services, patients' rights, opportunities to receive the latest medication, recovery rates and death rates in cases of difficult diseases.
Official data of the World Health Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development was used, with special surveys of patients carried out in every country.
Commissioner Kyprianou said the risk of dying in an accident in Lithuania is five times higher than in the Netherlands, and this elicits serious concerns about accident prevention in the Baltic state.
According to data provided by the World Health Organization, which is based on European Commission statistics, Lithuania and its Baltic neighbors of Latvia and Estonia have extremely high rates of accident-related deaths 's about 100 per population of 100,000. The EU average is 35, and the rate in the Netherlands is 21. The numbers exclude suicides and crimes of violence.
Lithuania has dubious repute among all members of the EU for its high number of road fatalities 's 22 deaths per 100,000 's three times more than Germany, where no speed limits are applied on the autobahn.
Overall, accidents are a leading cause of death throughout the EU, where the accident mortality rate ranks fourth after serious illnesses. What's more, a fifth of national health care budgets go toward treating the injured, Lithuanian national radio reported on June 26.