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FACTDROP: Greece shows dangers of cuts in health during crisis


Greece shows dangers of cuts in health during crisis

European Health Forum Gastein

Πηγή: Austrian Times
Sept 25 2012

In times of economic crisis health service budgets are often slashed dramatically at exactly the time that money worries are meaning more people are ending up sick.

This scenerio has been proven time and again - most recently in Greece where the state health service has seen staff numbers plunge and the money for equipment, medicines and clinics falling at a time when patient numbers have increased dramatically.

In cash-strapped Greece that meant hospital admissions were up 25 percent - but at the same time hospital budgets have been cut by 40 percent leaving shortages of medicine and staff.

The department of health reports that suicides are up 40 percent as well - with budgets for mental health care and drug dependents axed.

Doctors of the World, a charity that runs health clinics, said Greece in 2012 had all the characteristics seen in big cities in the Third World, people with no shelter, starving people and people looking for doctors and medicine.

And according to experts meeting next month at the 15th European Health Forum (EHFG) in Gastein - Greece may not be alone for long.

After decades of rising prosperity, the spectre over Europe is of a continuing financial crisis which will mean austerity in public health spending.

With health care representing 10% of GDP in the EU, and providing one of the largest sources of employment, it is a problem that needs tackling now say the event organisers.

EHFG's founder-president Dr Guenther Leiner said the financial crisis was very real - but also presented opportunities.

He said: "We have held, at the EHFG, fruitful debates on how limited resources could be used more sensibly and effectively." But he said talk alone was not enough and added: "It is high time that these be implemented on a political level."

The EHFG will bring together some 600 participants including some of the most influential figures in 50 countries in Europe, as well as Russia, Taiwan, and the SEE countries. Those taking part include Austrian health minister Alois Stöger, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli and the Regional Director for the WHO Europe Zsuzsanna Jakab.

Debates will focus on the health consequences of political responses to the financial crisis, and how - despite this - sustained improvements in both health and economic growth might be achieved.

Other areas to be discussed are the prospects for public health in 2050, sustainable health systems, personalised medicine, non-communicable diseases, health communication, and global governance.

Workshops will examine in detail such issues as vaccination and innovative approaches to improve trust and uptake, and the often disruptive role of social media; aligning the pharmaceutical industry with social needs; improving nutrition in Europe with flour fortification; health reform in practice; solutions to chronic disease; or the epidemic of kidney disease.

EHFG President Dr Leiner added: "The great virtue of the EHFG, and what has made its international reputation over these 15 years, is that we address real issues, and look for practical solutions."

The congress Crisis and Opportunity - Health in an Age of Austerity takes place at Bad Hofgastein in Salzburg from October 3 to 6, 2012.

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