Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Spain's healthcare cuts put Spaniards' lives at risk

According to a study published in the British Medical Journal on Thursday, budget cuts and austerity measures in Spain could cause the dismantling of a large part of the Spanish health system, potentially damaging the health of the population.

According to authors of the report, if this trend continues, there is a risk that Spain will experience a spiral of health problems, leading to a possible increase in infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV. 
 
The report shows that social services and healthcare cuts of almost 14% at the national level, and 10% on the regional level, in 2012 actually coincided with an increase in the demand for care, especially for the disabled, mentally ill and for senior citizens.
 
Part of the research consisted of interviews with 34 doctors and nurses in the Catalonia region, where the majority said they felt “shocked, numbed and disillusioned” about the cuts.
 
Researchers said that others expressed fears that austerity measures would actually “kill people,” identifying an increase in cases of depression, alcoholism-related diseases and suicides in Spain since the crisis began.
 
The journal quoted Helena Legido-Quigly, who is a lecturer in global health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and who worked on the research:
 
Our analysis is the first to look at the overall impact of austerity measures in Spain on the healthcare system and the findings are of great concern. Many of the measures taken to save money do not have a strong evidence-base. We are seeing detrimental effects on the health of the Spanish people and, if no corrective measures are implemented, this could worsen with the risk of increases in HIV and tuberculosis - as we have seen in Greece where healthcare services have had severe cuts - as well as the risk of a rise in drug resistance and spread of disease.

Legido-Quigly and her colleagues also explained:
 
In the face of austerity, a series of disconnected “reforms” could, without corrective measures, lead to the effective dismantling of large parts of the Spanish healthcare system, with potentially detrimental effects on health.
 
Besides cuts in spending, other changes include excluding unofficial immigrants from accessing free health services and an increase in payments by patients for additional treatments, including drugs, prosthetics and some ambulance trips.
 
According to the report, regional cuts have led to a move towards privatization of hospitals, cutbacks in emergency services, longer waiting times and fewer surgical procedures in both Madrid and Barcelona.
 
Co-author Jose Martin-Moreno, Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Valencia, added: 
 
I believe that this article sheds some much-needed light on the details of the cuts we are seeing in the Spanish health system. In fact, the cuts in public health expenditure, which are being implemented in response to a general economic crisis, are coming at a moment when health systems need more - not fewer - resources, among other reasons, to deal with the adverse health effects associated with unemployment. Cuts to essential health services, when insufficiently assessed or supported by evidence, can destabilize the health system, threatening not only equal access to healthcare, but also health care quality, which can even generate increases in other costs in the long term.
 
According to the report, Spain has one of the lowest healthcare budgets as a proportion of GDP in the European Union.

To the source: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/352391