In Hungary, six out of ten people are definitely worried about healthcare conditions.
Unfortunately, we do have reason to worry, as the European Health Consumer Index shows that Hungary is clearly lagging behind in the ranking of healthcare in European countries: only Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Lithuania are behind us in the list of 35 countries.
However, according to government propaganda, Hungary is performing better than before. We may very well be performing better in terms of the number of footballers earning millions, as well as in the number of private castles per Fidesz relative, but when it comes to healthcare quality indicators, we are doing increasingly worse.
In anticipation of the visceral attacks in the comments from those living in the orange bubble, let us set two things straight right away: on the one hand, the organization and operation of healthcare is the exclusive competence of the Member States, so when the government seeks scapegoats, it cannot but point at itself. On the other hand, Fidesz has been governing with a constitutional majority for more than ten years, which means that it has and has had all the means at its disposal to build up a system of quality care that is accessible to all, but has not done so. The loud and frequent references to the “last eight years” are therefore cowardly, pitiful and a lie in this case.
Let's see how the Hungarian healthcare system, currently struggling on several fronts, stands after ten years of stadium-governance. Today, more people die from nosocomial infections in Hungary than in car accidents. Since the change of government in 2010, more than 7,000 doctors have left Hungary, and according to the data of professional organizations, some 25,000 nurses are missing from the healthcare system.
Fidesz's attitude is shown by the fact that the value of health expenditures as a share of GDP has fallen to an unprecedented low; recently it was only 6.6 per cent, which is well below the EU average. Hungary has one of the highest rates of direct, out-of-pocket contributions, almost double the EU average.
According to recent reports, 43% of Hungarian households, i.e. almost half of them are at least medium level burdened by medical expenses. In addition, the Hungarian government speaks with dirty hypocrisy about the state esteem of healthcare workers, while doctors in Austria earn three times and in the Netherlands nine times more, but already in Slovakia they receive double the wages they would get in Hungary.
When MSZP called for the introduction of a sectoral minimum wage in healthcare, Fidesz turned its head away arrogantly; now, when the professional chamber is proposing a substantial wage increase for those fighting on the front line, they spend more on the hunting exhibition of Zsolt Semjén from the common budget. This narcissistic superiority, this filth hidden behind the national glaze is really quite astonishing.
Healthcare should be a national priority, a national security issue that needs to be addressed as one of the most important sectors, not only when a little small change is left at the bottom of the piggy bank after the distribution of diplomatic passports to football players, feeding the oligarchs and making sure there’s enough trousseau for family friends.
All Hungarians are entitled to European standard healthcare, and if the Hungarian government is unwilling to provide this to people along some incomprehensible, distorted logic, we must resort to other means. It is time for European minimum quality standards in the operation of health systems, standards and frameworks that need to be provided to citizens in all European Member States. This is what I am working on, this is my program.
I am proud that the S&D Group in the European Parliament has recently announced its package on the establishment of a 'European Health Union', with the need for the minimum healthcare standards that I have proposed. We have a long way to go before it is fully implemented, but we have taken the first steps and paved the way for more dignified and safer healthcare. I am confident that while Fidesz refused to do this on its own, it will at least not slow down or hinder this European program, which is also a turning point in the lives of Hungarians.
After the Hungarian PM’s landmark speech in Tusványos in 2014, in which he proclaimed his desire to turn Hungary into an illiberal state, I pledged to draw the public’s attention to the transgressions of this regime in an open letter every week. This is the 245th time I ring the bells of alarm, as it still seems necessary. And also, because as a radical European Democrat, it is my duty to do so.
dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
10 May, 2020