Health service shows symptoms of decline
3 January 2005, MADRID-Spain's national health system is beginning to show the symptoms of a lack of funding combined with rising demand, a new report has disclosed.
3 January 2005
MADRID-Spain's national health system is beginning to show the symptoms of a lack of funding combined with rising demand, a new report has disclosed.
User satisfaction has declined by seven percent over the last eight years.
The 2003 report, the first by the National Health System Observatory, shows that though patients are not complaining excessively about the treatment and attention they receive in public hospitals, the vast majority of people believe that standards have fallen in recent years.
One cause cited by the report is that while Spain's population grew 2 percent between 1995 and 2003, the amount of money spent on healthcare remained unchanged as a percentage of gross domestic product - at 5.4 percent.
For the new heads of the Health Ministry, who took over with the election of the Socialist Party in March, changes need to take place if the health system is to return to its previous state or improve.
According to the report, users' principal complaints are waiting times - not only for surgery but also for first appointments to see specialists, a factor that may have led many people to switch to private healthcare in Spain in recent years.
Whereas a decade ago 22 percent of health spending in Spain went to the private sector, today 28.6 percent of medical costs are accounted for by private hospitals and clinics, more than in Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom.
In addition, though the public system supposedly offers universal coverage, the study found that around 1percent of the population has no access to it due to economic, social or geographic reasons.
The public health system nonetheless spends an average of EUR 990 per member of the population per year, with Spaniards visiting doctors on average 5.5 times a year, or a total of 246,000 visits annually.
Of those, 91 percent visited public doctors, a figure that falls to 83.3 percent if the patient is a child.
Specialists attended to a total of 54 million consultations last year and 3.3 million people were hospitalized, the report shows, with the average hospital stay lasting 8.7 days for a combined total of 29 million days in public centres.
Private hospitals accounted for 1.5 million days, a third of which were subsidized with public money. During 2003, 2.3 million operations were carried out, the report states.
With the management of the health system transferred to regional administrations in 2002, Spain's 17 regional governments paid 89 percent of the total EUR 40.1 billion bill for public healthcare last year, with 2 percent accounted for by local administrations and nine percent by the central government.
In the vast majority of regions the health system is the single largest employer, giving work to 420,000 people, including doctors, nurses and non-medical staff.
Despite the decline in the standards of the health system in recent years, the report notes that the Spanish population in general is one of the healthiest in Europe, with the country recording the second-lowest infant mortality rate in the EU after Sweden and enjoying a life expectancy of 76.1 years for men and 82.8 for women.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news