Higher standards in healthcare will create second-class citizens

People’s health and a healthy society should be a fundamental political priority. Photo by Mohsen Atayi, WmC

In the past, healthcare unions have repeatedly expressed their disapproval of the introduction of higher standards in healthcare. They were very worried about what the current minister Vlastimil Válek was talking about at the TOP 09 idea conference — he would like to divide health care into “two groups of quality of care” according to the patients’ ability to pay extra.

While the ideology of TOP 09 emphasizes individuality and personal abilities, unions build on other values, such as mutual aid, solidarity and helping the weaker. The positions and individual steps of both parties also depend on these basic principles.

Solidarity benefits everyone

But besides the value side, there is of course the economic aspect. And here it is necessary to emphasize that the proposal to introduce higher standards comes shortly after the government took fourteen billion crowns from the health sector by reducing payments for state insured persons. The suspicion is imposed that the creation of a demand for a superior standard is targeted in order to assert an ideological intention.

The proposal comes at a time when we are behind the difficult years of the covid pandemic and when even important economic institutions are communicating that there is a need to re-evaluate some of the long-proclaimed mantras of neoliberal economists, as they are beginning to realize that the basis of development is a healthy society. Finally, the knowledge that the trade unions and their economic experts have been confirming for a long time will hopefully be heard, that a broad degree of solidarity is also beneficial for economic reasons.

We can illustrate this with many examples. Consider, for example, the popular political justification of the need for higher standards in the case of joint replacement of a patient who cannot yet pay extra for “better” material. Patients should receive modern materials, because it pays off economically — materials produced by new technologies wear out less. A patient who receives a “better” joint has a chance that the next replacement will take place later, the joint will last longer, the patient will experience less pain and be more satisfied.

At the same time, it will also save the health and social system. Every reoperation comes with additional costs. New material, the work of medical professionals and other costs of medical facilities must be paid for. The costs of rehabilitation and social security are not negligible either.

Another example is the introduction of modern methods such as robot surgery. Robotic operations are more precise, faster, the patient has fewer complications, recovers sooner, does not stay as long in the hospital, or the expensive chemotherapy treatment takes place on a smaller scale.

War care only for the rich

We often come across the claim that higher standards will bring immediate financial resources to the health sector. Such a statement is either a deliberate lie or ignorance of the funding system. The financial resources from the additional insurance would primarily be the income of health or other insurance companies, which could only pay them to the medical facility when an insured event occurs — after reviewing the insured event.

That is why we consider Minister Válek’s explanation that the above standard “will bring quality improvements for everyone” to be completely demagogic. Due to the major staffing problems we have in the healthcare sector — there is a lack of doctors, nurses and other medical staff — we are very worried that a patient who does not have a sufficient amount of money will not get the care he or she needs. The dual type of care can easily mean that when you pay, you get everything right away.

And what about the sick who won’t be able to? Minister Válek stated that his proposal is not anti-social. He also came with it in the current economic crisis, when many people are worried about their future and when the number of people falling into poverty and those who are struggling to make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck is growing steeply.

The trade union has never objected to the usual over-standards, which, by the way, have been in place for a long time — it’s fine that a patient can pay extra for a single room, TV, refrigerator or meal selection. However, we fundamentally reject the fact that additional payments lead to influencing the quality of the provided health care. We do not agree with the division of citizens into two categories: those who have money and will be assured of quality and timely health care, and those who, for financial reasons, will receive care of lower quality or limited scope.

People’s health and a healthy society should be a fundamental political priority.

Source: Deník referendum by denikreferendum.cz.

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