Crisis: Austerity measures having serious impact on Portuguese health


The Spring Report 2012 of the Portuguese Observatory on Health Systems says the increased pressure on reducing expenses has affected the quality of the healthcare on offer in Portugal.

Politics What's New — 14 June 2012 by Blandina Costa
Crisis: Austerity measures having serious impact on Portuguese health

As strict cost-cutting measures imposed by the austerity packages condition behaviours and limit expenses, the crisis is having a serious impact on the country’s healthcare system and harming the health of the Portuguese, says a report released on Thursday by the Portuguese Observatory on Health Systems in collaboration with the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies.

The Spring Report 2012 called “Crisis & Health – A country in pain”  assesses the impact of the crisis on Portuguese health and reveals that the increased pressure on reducing expenses has affected the quality of the healthcare on offer.

The effects due to the intensification of the crisis and the resulting pressure to reduce expenses are creating a climate among healthcare services that drives them not to offer patients what is best for their health”, says the report quoted by newspaper i.

The report describes the experience of several people who had to interrupt treatment when showing the first signs of improvement because they did not have enough money to pay for it. It also finds the correlation between some exams results and specific treatments is no longer linear as services attempt to save money.

The Observatory on Health Systems and Policies acknowledges that national authorities made a “considerable effort to receive a positive rating” during the troika’s regular assessments about limiting Government’s expenses.

Since last year, Portugal has been living under an international bailout provided by the so called troika made up of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund and the country must meet some financial goals in order to receive its bailout tranches.

The report is somewhat critical of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Portugal and the troika and argues it lacks an analysis of the crisis impacts on health as unemployment and impoverishment see a surge in depression, suicide as well as the risk of alcoholism and drug addiction.

The national observatory asked the Ministry of Health if these impacts were being monitored but no answer was received. Nonetheless, the report concludes the crisis can intensify mental diseases and addiction, along with infectious diseases.

Reacting to the report, the Government said in a statement that “most of the critics (…) match the execution of the Troika’s programme” and it criticises the report for not distinguishing between the memorandum’s undesirable measures and the measures which are necessary and urgent.

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