The Hungarian healthcare system faces critically long waiting lists, and here’s what you should know about them.
According to the State Secretary of Health, the length of waiting lists has become a political product. He added that this will soon come to an end as there’s an observably significant reduction. The State Secretary is currently quite satisfied with the healthcare statistics, but we found that there are medical treatments for which one has to wait for 6 years and 9 months. Now, we’re offering you an in-depth look into the current situation of the Hungarian healthcare industry.
Low productivity, long waiting list
At the end of last year, there were 41,500 insured individuals on waiting lists, and 23,000 of them had appointments beyond 60 days.
The issue of waiting lists has been a recurring problem for almost twenty years now. One would expect that the worst-performing institutions would be trying desperately to remove themselves from the bottom of the lists, but that’s not the case. In the last six months, there were thirteen hospitals where they performed fewer than 100 knee replacement surgeries in half a year. The same is true for hip replacement surgeries.
The difference is even more shocking when compared with the hidden success story of Hungarian healthcare: in recent times, most cataract surgery waiting lists have disappeared, going from long years to only a few months.
High debts and costy procedures
The success of the cataract surgeries might be surprising because the three interventions analysed in our article have a common point of needing a high-value device to be implanted into the patient. According to hospital management experts, this significantly lengthens the waiting lists.
The second reason identified is the financial constraint, meaning the difficulty in procuring high-value prosthetics due to the indebtedness of hospitals. The debt load of hospitals and lack of budget puts enormous pressure on institutions not to invest in these devices and thus increase their unpaid bills.
Lack of financial motivation
As a third reason, we identified the impact of gratitude money (hálapénz). For patients, this was quite significant, especially in orthopedics, where doctors used to receive substantial amounts of additional payments. The elimination of these informal payments caused a significant drop in their income, even if their legal salaries increased. Now, they attempt to compensate for these losses from private practice, reducing the number of potential specialists in the public sector.
Major prosthetic surgeries are extremely complex interventions, requiring the involvement of several different healthcare professionals. According to valaszonline.hu, it’s not just the specialists that are missing, but other staff too. There is a significant shortage of operating room nurses, surgical assistants, and even patient transporters. If any part of the system breaks down, it affects the waiting lists.
Overall healthcare situation
In many places, surgical departments have been discontinued, leading patients with minor surgeries to concentrate in large centers. Therefore, waiting lists may grow even if large hospitals perform more surgeries than before. Lists would likely shorten if performance-based bonuses were allowed for the entire team. Of course, waiting times do not grow indefinitely. Patients can also opt for private surgery. It’s also a way to shorten the state waiting list.
Hungarian healthcare system is dying, with waiting lists for some surgeries lasting almost 7 years
- Forrás: dailynewshungary.hu, 23 January 2024 - Emma Kusnyerik