Informal MEP discussion on Equity of Access to Quality Healthcare
/ January 28th, 2014/
On January 28th, 2014, an informal discussion was held in the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels with a focus on the arising problem of unequal access to quality healthcare in the European countries. The event was organized on the initiative of the Bulgarian MEP Dr. Andrey Kovatchev (EPP/GERB) and brought together representatives of the European Commission (EC), the European Patients’ Forum (EPF) and the Bulgarian National Patients’ Organization as well as representatives of the professional organizations of doctors, the European Federation of Nurses (EFN) and the pharmaceutical industry at European level.
MEPs from different political groups and countries also took part in the forum - Aloij Peterle (EPP, Slovenia), Petru Luhan (EPP, Romania), Peter Liese (EPP, Germany), Angelika Werthmann – (ALDE, Austria) and the Bulgarian MEPs: Vladimir Urutchev (EPP, Bulgaria) and Prof. Vladko Panayotov (ALDE, Bulgaria).
The main purpose of the discussion was to outline the priorities of the European Parliament, on which it should concentrate its work within the next mandate. It was agreed that access to healthcare should be a major issue within the EP priorities.
Medical services for patients in the EU Member States are of varying quality. Inequalities are in contradiction with the right of citizens to receive equal access to quality healthcare as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.
The participants of the meeting discussed the steps that the European Parliament should undertake in the new term. The group agreed that the EP should find the proper form of holding discussions on health issues. Currently health issues fall significantly behind topics such as environmental protection and food safety.
According to Andrey Kovatchev, MEP the solution to this common EU issue should be sought at European level, although the decision-making power of the EU in this area is still limited.
He noted that “The main responsibility for providing quality healthcare services falls on the Member States’ healthcare system, but EU institutions need to coordinate, supervise and guide them in achieving this goal”. “Public administrations should improve the utilization of funds, in particular the European Social Fund, which will enhance the quality of medical service for patients", he added.
Dr. Stanimir Hasardzhiev, Chairperson of the Bulgarian National Patients’ Organization (NPO), briefed the participants on the idea of the future European Partnership on Equity of Access to Quality Healthcare which is in process of foundation. Such a structured partnership approach at European level aims to offer innovative solutions to reduce inequalities in access to healthcare in Europe, based on the
experience and support of all partners - patients, doctors, nurses, pharmaceutical industry, research centers, etc. According to Dr. Hasardzhiev “the success of the Partnership depends on its close cooperation with the EP”.
"Tackling health inequalities in the EU should be a major focus in the election campaigns of candidates and a commitment to their future work as MEPs” explicitly stated Dr. Hasardzhiev , who is also a board member of the European Patients' Forum, which was given the mandate by the Partnership supporters to build the institutional structure of the Partnership.
A few days ago Dr. Kovatchev in collaboration with a number of MEPs submitted a written question to the European Commission on its role in achieving progress in ensuring equal access to quality healthcare for all EU citizens. European Commission representatives participating in the event praised the expression of political will by the European Parliament to work towards addressing the problem of health inequalities.
The European Commission has been given a deadline until early March 2014 to submit a written answer to the question.