Cyprus Mail

The highs and lows of Cyprus’ health system – 2015 report (Updated)

As various factions in Cyprus slug it out over the creation of a national health plan, the latest Euro Health Consumer Index (EHCI) place the island in 26th place out of 35 countries with a score of 595 points out of 1,000 but thinks it could actually be lower.

“Cyprus is very difficult to score in the EHCI, as it does not really have a public healthcare system in the general European meaning,” said the 2015 report released on Tuesday. “As the EHCI normally does not reward a country for such services obtained by paying privately, it is possible that the score in reality should be lower,” it added.

The findings, which place counties in green, orange and red zones, place Cyprus, according to the scores, bottom in some areas and top in one or two categories.

But the bottom line was that in terms of ‘bang for your buck’, as the report says, Cyprus was placed 21st out of the 35 countries.

The EHCI 2015 total ranking of healthcare systems shows The Netherlands holding out against the onslaught of Switzerland at 894 points out of 1,000. The Netherlands in 2015 is clinging on to the top position by breaking the 900-point barrier for the first time in the EHCI, scoring 916 points.

“While by no means claiming that the EHCI 2015 results are dissertation quality, the findings should not be dismissed as random findings,” said the report.

“The Index is built from the bottom up – this means that countries who are known to have quite similar healthcare systems should be expected not to end up far apart in the ranking. This is confirmed by finding the Nordic countries in a fairly tight cluster, England and Scotland clinging together as are the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Spain and Portugal, Greece and Cyprus.”

One of the notable points when it comes to Greece and Cyprus, according to the report is the low number of visits per doctor in both countries. “Greece, which has by far the highest number of doctors per capita could possibly be under-reporting of visits for tax evasion reasons,” the report said.

“Greece leads Europe by a wide margin in the number of doctors per capita (below), and also has the highest number of pharmacists per capita. Still the picture of Greek healthcare, painted by the patient organisation responses, does not at all indicate any sort of healthy competition to provide superior healthcare services.”

One of the indicator tables outlines ‘under the table’ payments to doctors’, which places Greece firmly in the ‘red zone’ and Cyprus in the ‘orange zone’ in that patients asked: “Would they be expected to make unofficial payments?’ answered ‘Yes, frequently’.

The island also scored last – after Albania – in ‘public share of healthcare costs’ at only 45 per cent as opposed to 80 per cent in Norway, and top of the red zone for 500 Caesarian births out of every 1,000. Also at any given time 25 people in every 1,000 in Cyprus are on antibiotics. In Greece it’s 35 per 1,000. In this category, Cyprus scored lowest when it came to the number of people who don’t know that antibiotics are useless for colds and flu. Only one in four were aware of this fact.

In patients’ rights, Cyprus was 5th from the bottom, and 7th from the bottom in the length of time it takes to have a non-acute CT scan.  The average waiting time at an A&E was two hours but this was not as long as some other countries. In the UK waiting time was 2.5 hours and in Ireland, almost three hours.

Smoking and smoking prevention also landed Cyprus in the red zone as did a lack of physical activity.

When it comes to MRSA, an issue that is rarely talked about in Cyprus, it was found that 30 per cent of hospital infections here were resistant, placing Cyprus again in the red zone. Iceland came in with zero and Scandinavian countries with under 5 per cent. The UK, praised for its improvements in this area, has knocked its percentage back to under 10.

On the issue of high Caesarians, the EHCI report said: “In scoring, it has been assumed that high Caesarean rates are an indication on poor prenatal support and poor baby delivery services – consequently, a high Caesarean rate has been given a red score.”

“The general recommendation is that a woman should not have more than two Caesarean deliveries… this way of delivery can be medically important and should of course be available… but we suspect that Caesarean section may camouflage a lack of good information and support before delivery as well as lack of access to pain control. Even though a Caesarean is costly, there is definitely no positive correlation between national wealth and high Caesarean rates; rather the reverse,” it added.

Cyprus did score quite well in terms of the number of people over 25 who suffer from high blood pressure, which was put at a reasonable 20 per cent of the population and put the island in the green zone, though in the figure was UK was 15 per cent.

Another improvement seen was that cancer survival rates in Cyprus have risen from 50 per cent in 2008 to almost 60 per cent by 2013, according to the figures.

In one ‘green zone’ category, Cyprus was top of the list – the indicator measuring ‘Years lost per 100.000 population 0-69, all causes of death’.

The report said that Potential Years of Life Lost (PYLL), used by the WHO and OECD, take into account the age at which deaths occurs by giving greater weight to deaths at younger age and lower weight to deaths at older age.

Potential Years of Life Lost are calculated from the number of deaths multiplied by a standard life expectancy at the age at which death occurs, meaning in Cyprus fewer people die at younger ages. Only nine of the 35 countries were placed in the green zone for this category. Lithuania was at the top of the ‘red zone’.

The full report HERE

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