According to The Health Consumer Powerhouse, an independent expert organisation, the estimated 2006 Euro Health Consumer Index, based on 2003–2004 data, placed Lithuania at the very bottom of the list (340 out of 750 maximum points). The Index compares all 25 EU nations’ healthcare systems, plus Switzerland, from the consumers’ viewpoint. Measured by 28 indicators, including the accessibility of health services, patients rights, opportunities to receive the latest medication, recovery rates and death rates in cases of difficult diseases, France was closely followed by the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Luxemburg. Best value for money is provided by Slovenia and Estonia.
It is worth mentioning that the 2006 Euro Health Consumer Index was the very first independent ranking of the Lithuanian healthcare system, as well as for other new country-members of the EU. Johan Hjertquist, President of Health Consumer Powerhouse, told Lithuanian National Radio that the index is a serious signal to Lithuanian healthcare politicians who, though they claim to perform a reform, are not capable of ridding the country’s heritage from the Soviet healthcare system.
Retiring from his role as Health Minister, Z Padaiga agreed at a press conference that there are still too many hospitals and hospital beds in Lithuania, and that still too little attention is paid to primary healthcare and patients nursing. He also responded that, during the past decade, nothing had been done in that respect, so no miracle changes could be expected. ‘I believe that the shortage of funds is the main reason,’ he pointed out. ‘A series of indicators listed in the report depend on money, and the funding has significantly increased only this year.’
Although a special press release regarding the Lithuania rates reports that some of Lithuanian healthcare measures are not bad (patients rights and information, accessibility to medical records), it also indicates that accessibility to treatment, especially new modalities and treatment outcomes, are unsatisfactory. Predictive arguments for poor funding are defended by presenting Estonia as an example of a similar former healthcare system; currently, in the EU, Estonia takes second position after Slovenia for the best value for money, meaning that not just money determines good results; by the same token, Lithuanian healthcare is not the poorest.
The particular proposals for Lithuanian healthcare from Health Consumer Powerhouse are to:
1. establish insurance, which will not expect patients who are victims of medical negligence to prove the guilt of the latter
2. set up indispensable vaccination of all the children against poliomyelitis
3. guarantee proper public information about the medical care system.
Dr A. Björnberg, head of the Euro Health Consumer Index survey, states that a healthcare system in Lithuania is undergoing thorough reformation, meaning scope and hope for a better score in 2007. So, if we could optimistically transform the 2006 Euro Health Consumer Index slogan - ‘Room for big improvements in every country’- the Lithuanian ‘room’ is the biggest.
The Republic of Lithuania
The largest of three Baltic States, Lithuania borders Belarus, Latvia, Poland, and Russia, and lies on the Baltic Sea to the west. The country has an area of around 65,200 sq. kilometres and an estimated population (2006) of 3,596,617, with a growth rate of -0.3%. The birth rate is 8.8/1000 and infant mortality 6.8/1000. Average life expectancy is 74.2 years.
• The capital city is Vilnius.
• Lithuania declared independence from Russia in 1990. This was recognised in September 1991 and, eleven days later, the country joined the United Nations.
• In 1994, Lithuania applied for membership of NATO.
• It joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001.
• Lithuania has been a member state of the European Union since May 2004.
The country’s motto is ‘Let unity flourish’