The Hungarian healthcare system has slipped three places on the Euro Health Consumer Index (EHCI), a comparative list that claims to measure the “consumer friendliness” of healthcare systems in 35 countries, making it one of the worst-performing in Central and Eastern Europe, according to a report yesterday by online news portal index.hu.

Hungary placed 30th on the list, above only the healthcare systems of Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Romania. Index.hu notes that even Greece’s health sector, long in crisis and enduring austerity measures, performed better than Hungary in the ranking.

Health Consumer Powerhouse, a Swedish health policy think tank that specializes in comparing healthcare systems throughout Europe, has compiled the index since 200. The institution claims on its website that the EHCI is regarded by the European Commission as “the leading public measurement of how national healthcare systems perform”. At the same time, the well-respected British Medical Journal has criticized the index for what it says is an arbitrary points system and for the weightings assigned to individual indicators.

On a scale with a maximum 1,000 points, the 2016 list sees the Netherlands health system come out top with 927 points, followed by Switzerland, Norway and Belgium. In CEE, Czech Republic features highest, in 13th place, followed by Slovenia in 16th, while Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and FYR Macedonia all place higher than Hungary, whose 575 points secure it only 30th place. Having reached its highest points score in 2008, Hungary has been steadily slipping down the rankings in recent years.

Among other criteria, the index assigns points to countries for the enforcement of patient rights, accessibility of services, waiting times, success rates, effectiveness of preventive measures, provision of medicines, and breadth and equal treatment in the provision of services.

Getting priorities right

According to index.hu, Hungary scored poorly in terms of waiting times, success rates, and provision of medicines. The report suggests that Hungarian healthcare needs radical reforms in order to become a modern, patient-focused system.

“In recent years, the governments of Hungary and Poland seem to have focused on things other than the optimal running of the country. In Hungary, things like keeping out 1,200 refugees per year – a pathetic number, anyway,” the EHCI report comments.

“In Hungary, one of the oldest publicly funded CEE healthcare systems has failed to transform from the old Semashko-style mentality into the modern world of patient-centered healthcare,” the report goes on to note, referencing one of the organizers of the healthcare system in the one-time Soviet Union. It concludes: “The public and the medical profession in both countries [Hungary and Poland] deserve better.”

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