The vast majority of the European community considers the Eurozone to be in dire financial straits. Recent polls paint a picture of unmitigated gloom and, even worse, they allow no room whatsoever for any change. Politicians are accused of giving no thought to the likely repercussions of their reckless policies and adopting an approach which was solely conducive to generating profit. Under the pretext of the recession, these leaders confronted healthcare as a source of financial destabilization, and not as a means for social cohesion. Politicians evaluated medications and treatments not in proportion to the needs of the public, but instead by thinking about their governmental budgets.
Our current political leaders' approach, left the public health wounded, forcing people to pay more and receive less. In the UK, the government designed changes in the interest of minimizing cost, and the debt-stricken countries of the Eurozone (Spain, Italy, Greece, etc) funded healthcare insufficiently, leaving institutions to dissolve, personnel to underperform, and various sensitive groups of society (elders, longtime patients, etc.) to struggle. For example, in debt-stricken Spain, more than 100,000 immigrants without proper residence permits will be stripped of the right to public healthcare, something which will not only generate health hazards, but also augment racism and marginalization. In Italy, the overall health indicators worsened, access to healthcare became more unequal and time-consuming, and as stated by officials, the gap of quality of health between regions got larger. In Greece, individuals in bad health are obligated to pay almost the full price of their medicine and if they finally manage it, they are forced to wait even for months for chemotherapy or a surgery. Last but not least, the rate of psychiatric disorders and suicides have gone up, highlighting the toll of the unrestrained financial reform.
While justified by the risk of a default or deep recession, present fiscal policies for healthcare have completely failed. It is indisputable that an efficient healthcare system is a fundamental characteristic of a civilized nation. A well-organized hospital sustains national culture, just as a museum does. When every person feels sheltered, then society has achieved social inclusion. When that happens regardless of an individual’s ethnicity, health state, financial competence, and social status, then cultural integration can be achieved.
However, the major problem is ethical. Could a patient of cancer, HIV, or AIDS become a guinea pig for fiscal experimentation or the scapegoat of dysfunctional policies? How easy is it for the people in charge to say to someone that “your medication is expensive for the government so you have to pay for it?” If a patient is a predicament for fiscal reform, then why should we consider fiscal reform a step ahead?
The erosion of our rights to an efficient and generous public health system signifies that we have fallen into a period of moral decline. Furthermore, strict austerity and social policy cannot be merged, since a healthcare system’s profit is its medical efficiency and not its turnover. Probably it is high time that we decide where we stand: being socially healthy and not that wealthy, or being wealthy and partially healthy? The answer is more than obvious.