Médecins du Monde: Patients in Portugal and Greece have to choose between eating and buying medicines

by zoejardiniere

12.04.2013. The most vulnerable persons in European societies are becoming even more so in terms of access to healthcare, social exclusion, living conditions and being at risk of violence according to the findings of a new report by Médicins du Monde (MdM) published this week. The report shows the dramatic effects that the economic crisis, rising unemployment and cuts to social protection, is having in access to healthcare.

MdM highlights that patients in clinics in Portugal and Greece have had to choose between feeding themselves and buying their medicines, and clinics across Europe have been forced to expand the services they provide, running soup kitchens alongside health centres, due to the illogicality of providing healthcare to people if they cannot afford to feed themselves. The report is highly critical of measures such as the Spanish Royal Decree 16/2012 of April 2012, which limits foreigners’ access to healthcare, prompting health workers in several regions to reject it on the basis that it is counter to the ethical principles of the Hippocratic oath. Measures such as this are also, according to MdM, economically unsound, as they force more people to rely only on emergency services, which are more expensive to provide.

81% of the patients surveyed had no way of accessing healthcare without paying the full costs. 20% of the MdM service users reported having been denied access to care by a healthcare provider in the last 12 months (especially in Spain, 62%). 40% of the patients surveyed had fled war or experienced violence in their home countries or on their journey to Europe, while 26% reported experiencing violence once in Europe. Xenophobic violence is a particular problem in Greece, where MdM clinics have been targeted by right wing extremists.

The report is also particularly critical of the fact that children, especially those from marginalised groups such as Roma, or those in an irregular migration situation are not being systematically immunised. The practitioners warn that this is detrimental to health in the larger population and could lead to epidemics.

The findings of the report are based on 19,302 consultations and 11,921 diagnoses with 8,412 patients at MdM clinics in 14 cities across seven European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is currently working on a report about inequalities in access to health care in Greece, with a particular focus on the situation of vulnerable groups, such as the poor, the elderly, migrants and minorities.

For further information:

–         Médecins du Monde, Press Release, April 2013

–         Médecins du Monde, Update on health legislation in ten European Countries, April 2013