According to a recent survey from Eurobarometer as reported by daily Pravda, a massive 53% of Slovaks felt that taking bribes and abuse of position were common practice in the Slovak health service.
It was always common practice to ‘bribe’ your way to the front of the queue or into getting preferential treatment in Slovakia, with a visit to the doctor hardly ever without some form of sweet reward from the obliging patients.
The survey from 2012 shows that this ‘system’ has not changed, or at least people’s perception of it hasn’t, with as much as 61% of those asked putting healthcare at the top of the ranking of corrupt segments.
Slovakia came third in terms of the number of healthcare workers who had been offered a bribe in the past year, with 13% at least admitting to this. Neighbouring Hungary took top spot with 17% along with Romania in this ranking.
In an attempt to combat this bad image, in 2012 neurosurgeon Milan Mrázik from Žilina launched the initiative ‘Ďakujem, úplatky neberiem’, meaning “No thanks, I don’t take bribes”, which involved doctors signing a public petition declaring that they do not accept bribes or other forms of informal payments.
They would declare this by openly wearing, or displaying, a badge symbolising this stance. The initiative quickly spread and got the support of Medical Trade Unions Association (LOZ), before gaining the support of Marian Kollár, the president of the Slovak Medical Chamber (SLK). Both of these institutions say that the campaign should be continued and supported. By the publication date of the survey, 412 doctors were actively participating, constituting around 10% of the country’s doctor base.
In Slovakia a policy reducing the influence of pharmaceutical companies on doctors was long asked for. However, the submission of the draft of the new Act was by public opinion linked to one of the most influential and strongest financial groups: Penta. Penta owns one of the pharmacy chains in Slovakia.
This raised the concern that the pharmacists lobby would replace the physicians in receiving the (financial) perks by pharmaceutical companies. After a lot of debate and comments in and from the media and the National Council, the Act was amended by comments of several members of parliament and then adopted.
One of the amendments changed the Act substantially; although physicians now have to prescribe generic medication, they may still suggest a brand name in between brackets. This raises ethical concerns as the decision maker is now not clearly defined and the indication between brackets may strongly influence the patient and/or pharmacy. A thorough and systematic evaluation of this policy is needed to clearly identify all the effects.
The whole report can be viewed here.