National health

Three weeks ago I had an operation. As it happens, it was a rather large, if not life-threatening one. Yet, after exactly 48 hours, I was back home again, walking up the stairs to my flat.

Why am I telling you this? Why am I also telling you that as soon as I had woken up from my anaesthesia, I spent the rest of the day endlessly and exaltedly praising and thanking all and sundry (doctors and nurses) around me? Moreover,  I have been thanking, ever since, whoever was willing to endure my boundless gratitude for a few years without pain, without invalidity.

I am telling you because I want to extol the fabulous scientific advances made over even just the past ten years; also because in most other countries of the world I would not have been able to afford such an operation; and finally, because – well, because I am extremely lucky to live in a country with an excellent national health service.

EU countries are expected to provide affordable health services to all citizens. I quote the European Commission’s 2016 report “EXPERT PANEL ON EFFECTIVE WAYS OF INVESTING IN HEALTH”

The 28 Member States of the European Union (EU) have a clear mandate to ensure equitable access to high-quality health services for everyone living in their countries. This does not mean making everything available to everyone at all times. Rather, it means addressing unmet need for health care by ensuring that the resources required to deliver relevant, appropriate and cost-effective health services are as closely matched to need as possible.

Between 2005 and 2009, EU Member States made huge progress in improving access to health care. The number of people reporting unmet need for health care due to cost, travel distance or waiting time fell steadily from 24 million in 2005 to 15 million in 2009. Since 2009, however, this positive trend has been reversed – a visible sign of the damage caused by the financial and economic crisis. By 2013, the number of people reporting unmet need for health care had risen to 18 million (3.6% of the EU population).

The report is worth a look, as it is well referenced and goes a long way to explain the repercussions and by-products of a population’s health.

Now, out of the global population, the entire population of the EU amounts to approximately 7%, that of Canada less than 0,5%. I suspect that the standard of life in New Zealand (0.06% of the global population) and Australia (0.325%) is comparable to that of EU countries, but I have not looked into it.

As for the rest of the world: Sorry Mac, you were born in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In my country, I belong to the majority (i.e. > 50%) that is neither poor nor filthy rich. We have not only what we need; we can go abroad twice a year, and we can renew our computers every third year. But whether we belong to the blessed or the non-blessed, we have access to the same health service. The fabulous operation I had cost me nothing. Not a farthing. And the growing number of people in this country who cannot afford to go abroad twice a year and renew their computers every third year would at least be able to afford that operation or, for that matter, any other medically indicated treatment.

Yes, the number of people who struggle to satisfy basic needs is rising and will continue to do so (as you will understand if you have read your Piketty). But so far, most EU-nationals should in principle, at least,  have access to what was granted me.

Personally, though, I believe that proper medical treatment is a human right.

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