AFP: Bulgaria Tries Ambitious Health Reforms to Stop Being 'EU's Death Capital'
Bulgaria is identified as the "EU's death capital" in a recent article of AFP, which examines the problems of the country's medical system.
Despite the large-scale investments in healthcare and having the most hospitals per capita in the EU, Bulgaria has retained the highest mortality rate in the EU for nearly a decade.
According to figures of the National Statistical Institute (NSI), 15 deaths per 1000 people occur in Bulgaria.
The hope lies in the fresh and ambitious reforms, which are aimed at improving the distribution of public funds and reducing corruption in the system.
In an interview for AFP, Bulgarian Health Minister Petar Moskov said that the "system needs a painful overhaul".
Moskov noted that despite the increased spending on healthcare, life expectancy drops, while hospital stays and mortality rates increase.
Bulgaria has one of the lowest life expectancies (74 years) and child mortality is also high in the country, with Bulgarian children under the age of five being twice more prone to death than their European counterparts.
Among the Roma community, this figure is even higher, with an average of 20 out ot 1000 children having died in 2014.
The reforms of Moskov aim to reduce the death rate by 20 % by 2020 and change the way hospitals are funded.
Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov noted that an increase in public spending of 53 % over the past five years has not brought any visible improvement in the quality of care, with the medical services being extremenly inefficient.
Recently, the World Bank pointed to the "disproportionately high" fees Bulgarian patients have to pay for healthcare and medicines. In 2013, this share reached 43 %, which was the highest in the EU.
There has also been a trend of over-hospitalisation, with 40 % more people hospitalised in Bulgaria than in the rest of the EU.
Another problem has been the widespread corruption in the system, which has affected even nurses.
Moskov plans to reduce the number of hospitals allocated public funds and introduce digital fingerprints for all patients in order to avoid falsification of patient numbers.
Priority in funding will be placed on patients with life-threatening conditions, who will be fully reimbursed, while those suffering from lesser diseases can choose between waiting or paying for their treatment.
The plan will also focus on prevention, which until now has been largely absent, with a possible levy of a tax on foods with high salt and sugar content.
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