Europe plagued by debt crisis -- ask a doctor

Government budget cuts are leading to rising rates of tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases once considered conquered.

By Bruce Kennedy Apr 2, 2013 7:55AM

Medical doctor (© Corbis)The ongoing debt crisis in Europe isn't just crippling government finances and individual savings. It's also placing a heavy burden on national health care systems as drastic budget cuts undermine some essential health and public safety programs.


A new study by the British medical journal The Lancet (summarized in the publication's press release) finds that since the start of the economic crisis in 2009, infectious diseases and illnesses long considered part of Western Europe's past -- like tuberculosis, malaria and dengue fever -- are making a comeback due to health care budget cuts in many EU nations.


"Within the measures that were imposed by the troika (of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund), there were requirements to cut back on some of the clinics treating infectious disease," Martin McKee, one of the study's authors, recently told the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.


Overall death rates in Europe are also up, as are the number of mental health cases and suicides.


Health care in Greece, ground zero of Europe's financial crisis, has been particularly hard-hit. Willem de Jonge, with the organization Doctors Without Borders, says health care funding there has been cut by up to 40% since the start of the crisis -- with dramatic results.

"The capacity of the hospitals and of the public health system to cope with the need is drastically reduced," he told Deutsche Welle. "People have less access. There are fewer doctors, fewer surgeons -- all of the things you would normally find in a functioning health care system."


And Reuters reports that some Greek hospitals are dealing with medicine shortages and a rise in some antibiotic-resistant infections as they struggle to maintain basic medical standards.


Greece isn't the only European country whose health care system is ailing. Mari Carmen Cervera, an unemployed nurse in Madrid, told the Malta Independent that health cutbacks in Spain are noticeable in many ways. Cervera said her mother has a serious heart condition that required hospitalization, but she was discharged too early and had to be readmitted.


Some European institutions are challenging The Lancet study. But McKee says as many EU governments struggle to recover, they're turning a blind eye to the massive issues created by slashing public health programs.


"We do contrast the willingness of the governments and of the European Central Bank to bail out the banks,” he told Deutsche Welle, “but not to protect health care for ordinary people."

More on moneyNOW

Apr 2, 2013 10:12AM
Wait...isn't Europe the Utopian model of industrialized nations offering universal healthcare? And it's not working as everyone hoped? 

I don't understand, this is the route all industrialized nations are supposed to take...
Apr 2, 2013 8:35AM
As we live in a Global Society that's very Mobile, Europe's health issues can quickly become America's health issues.
Apr 2, 2013 2:31PM
The problem with free stuff is that someone has to pay for it. The millions of illegals and moochers will  overload the greatest healthcare system in the world and we will become like the Europeans. Instead of private hospital rooms, they will be converted into semi-private rooms and then into wards where you have 20 or 30 in a large room. Doctors will make group appointments where he/she can see 5-10 patients at a time. Cost will rise cause the government could not run a whore house efficiently. Lawyers will be happy cause they will be many more lawsuits. What is not to like about the Obamanation health care law. To top that off, the government will get to decide rather than your doctor whether not a surgical procedure or other life saving procedures is worthy of the cost in your old age. When you reach the 80 year old mark, these unelected gov. officials might determine your life is not worth saving and that the limited funds would better be served using on a younger more productive person. This is what is in store for Americans. Those that voted for Obama will curse him when one of their loved ones is told to take a pain pill and go home and die. ...  .  
Apr 2, 2013 1:08PM
That's what happens when you let the government take care of you and ru(i)n health care.
Apr 3, 2013 6:36PM
The reason you don't feed wild animals is so they don't get lazy and lose their competitive edge by being used to handouts..............      It has the same effect in humans.   About 70% of taxpayer subsidized goodies are going to have to go away for a country to remain solvent and competitive... I know,, the truth hurts and competition is hard, good choices have to be made. Nevertheless,, it is the only way my friends.
Apr 2, 2013 11:41PM
Nice anecdotes.  I thinks I will wait to see the stats.
Apr 2, 2013 10:28AM

Well a good share of the Doctors and Medical profession have came to the U.S to "milk" the money tree and suck honey from the Medicare pot....


Wonder where they might go next...? Doubt it will be China..

Apr 2, 2013 1:00PM

We "were" the Model of an Industrialized Nation....And Health care along with un-supervized pensions dragged us into the DITCH....

Something had to be done.....That will probably lower prices...And control cost'.


We the(US) have been talking about doing something over 30 years...

That's all they have done at all levels...

And in the meantime Healthcare has run AMOK...

Lives have been destroyed and dreams have been crushed....It's about time..

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