03 Oct 2017

Get in line! The endless queue for care

Those who want to be treated by a specialist as soon as possible can say goodbye to public healthcare and choose private centers, instead. But that's a choice that not many can afford to make.

Ivett Körösi
Ivett Körösi Nepszava, Hungary
Source: Nepszava
Get in line! The endless queue for care - NewsMavens
Plush monkey gives a toy bear a check up with a stethescope. Myriams_Photos. Pixabay. (CC0)

Why this story matters:

A Hungarian saying goes: "The most important thing in life is yourhealth ". People usually realize just how true this is when they get sick and need immediate medical assistance. That's just what happened to Mrs. Bajzat who discovered in September that she had an 18 mm lump in her thyroid.

She called the nearest endocrinologist for a specialist consult. The next available appointment was in April.

She was shocked: would she really have to wait 7 months to get proper treatment? 210 days. The hospital's director confirmed the waiting time and added: if the case is not extremely urgent, that's the soonest one can get an appointment at the endocrinology department.

Mrs. Bajzat’s was not an isolated case: more and more people in Hungary are facing the same problem. There are long hospital waiting lists both in the capital and in the countryside.

Those who want to be treated by a specialist as soon as possible can say goodbye to public healthcare and choose private centers instead. But that's a choice that not many can afford to make. Those who can't afford private healthcare can't do anything but wait and hope that their condition doesn't get worse.

Hungary has always been proud of its free public healthcare but the system has many shortcomings. There is a serious shortage of doctors. Fewer and fewer young adults chose to study medicine and those that do often end up working abroad because the salaries are significantly higher and the working conditions are much better. Public healthcare needs heavy investment. And there are many patients who don't have time to wait.

Details from the story:

  • In some areas of public healthcare, patients have to wait for months to be seen and treated by a specialist. Several hospitals are affected -- both in Budapest and the countryside
  • In the capital, patients have to wait for six weeks to get an appointment at the endocrinology department. Rheumatology -- 1.5-2 months. In the countryside, the situation is worse, according to representatives of different hospitals who wish to remain anonymous, because they're not allowed to comment on the issue publicly
  • It is no surprise that more and more people choose private health centers. But those who cannot afford it have no choice but to wait
  • Zsolt Pasztelyi, the president of a Hungarian medical association said public hospital waiting lists are long because there is a shortage of doctors, the bureaucratic system is complicated and often nonsense, and there are financial problems
  • In Budapest, many doctors have quit public healthcare to work in private centers where they can earn more which makes the shortage worse and inflates prices
  • A 2017 report by Hungarian research and consulting institute Political Capital found that the number of Hungarians who did not seek medical help in the past year rose. It said people avoided going to the doctor because it was too expensive, too far away, or the waiting list was too long.
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