Corona Virus. Is the Hungarian healthcare system ready to deal with it?
Healthcare system is an important item in every country, especially now that the
corona virus is spreading all over the world. Even if the situation in Hungary seems
to be more stable than for other European Countries, we should all be aware about
the pros and cons of this system.
Just two months ago, Corona virus seemed to be an issue only in China. Nobody would imagine that Europe and all the world could wrap its head around that. As it happened, national healthcare system has become a major topic everywhere, especially for those, as me, who are volunteering in a foreign country. That’s why I’ve started to ask myself if Hungary was ready to deal with the emergency. Looking to the pros, the response would seem positive, as hungarian health system is normally efficient and there is a good number of beds available. However, on the negative side, as Oecd and Eurostat report shows, there are not enough doctors or nurses and the quality of services can vary depending on which city you’re currently in - a contradiction compared to the high level joined by hungarian universities in the field of medicine.
Starting from an overview, the corona virus hasn’t spread through Hungary as fast as in other states in Europe. In the mid ofmarch the official data reported 32 confirmed cases. On the 24th, the number increased to 187 and on the 31st, following the increase of sample tests done, the statistics showed 492 infected, 61 in quarantine, 37 recovered, 16 deceased on 14176. So the situation doesn’t look as bad as in Italy, referring to the official data. At the same time, Hungary has taken different measures to prevent a huge growth of infected people. Universities have been closed since the 17th of March and bars, restaurants as well no priority needs shops are not open to the public.
NUMBER OF BEDS AVAILABLE
Speaking of the health system, there are some aspects that could be seen as highlights. First of all, the number of beds available in the hospitals. Following the research reported on Nimblefins that collect data from Eurostat and Oecd, Hungary can count on 7.02 beds per 1000 people. The country is also well placed with hospital beds to care for the vulnerable older generation, with a good supply of 54.9 beds for 1000 older people. Total number of Hospital Beds is now 68,644.
HIGH LEVEL OF EDUCATION
Another good news is the level of education in medicine. Four hungarian universities are listed among the 500 best universities in life science and medicine – as the Qs World universities ranking shows.
Moreover, as opposed to USA, Hungary provides universal healthcare. The cost of it is financed through the Health Insurance Fund (Hif), which is covered by employers and employee’s contribution.Thanks to it, all citizens are eligible to receive free emergency health services, regardless of their employment status and their origins. So in the case of the emergency for covid-19, too.
FEW DOCTORS AND NURSES
Besides the good quality of health treatement and the free availibility for all, public healthcare services in Hungary still have their weaknesses. As official data from Eurostat and Oecd report shows, almost 5500 doctors and a substansial number of nurses left the country to work in other EU countries and elsewhere beetween 2010 and 2016. So Hungary could count 39 948 doctors and 63 739 nurses in 2017 for a total of 9.8 milion people living in the whole country. One reason of this intense emigration is that in a European comparison the Hungarian health system is underfunded (EUR 1 468 per capita). Wages in Hungary are quite low compared to most other EU countries.
DISTRIBUTION OF DOCTORS
Distribution of doctors is also a negative point in the hungarian healthcare system. The northern region has almost half as many doctors than the central. And shortages are mostly in rural areas.
THE AGE OF DOCTORS
Last but not least important, the age of doctors. This could be a critical point in the fight against COVID-19, since there are more chances that older doctors can fall seriously ill and be unable to work than younger doctors. In Hungary 40,5% of doctors are 55 or older.
So from we’ve said until now, we might suppose that Hungary is not ready to deal with a real state of emergency. As if there was an unexpected and huge increase of infected people, the system will lack of a consistent number of doctors and nurses, especially in the northern area of the country. And, as healthcare is available to all, Hungary’s health system would become overburdened. Anyway, there is still an opportunity to avoid the emergency state. This comes from prevention and solidarity. If every one stays at home as much as possible and the youngest people help the oldest to avoid public contacts, Hungary won’t probably join a state of emergency.