Currently, the EU spends 8 billion euros a year supporting health and medical care for citizens living in poor or remote regions. In particular, there’s a great deal of focus on rural areas, in which the population might not have access to healthcare.
This could be down to a shortage of doctors or medical facilities, or a lack of initiatives focusing on the prevention of diseases.
Healthcare is still, primarily, the responsibility of individual member states. It’s not under the control of the Commission.
However, in order to combat the health inequality that exists both between different states, and within the states, healthcare is covered by structural funds – which were brought in to close the gap between the richest and the poorest in Europe.
Over 350 billion euros has, so far, been paid out in structural funds. Of this, around 8 billion has been spent on healthcare.
In a meeting held last week, members of the Commission are now discussing the best way to spend the allocated funds. And, in particular, how the money can be spent to ensure it’s targeted to those who most need it.
European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis and the Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Cretu took part in the recent talks. Their focus was on how the funding can be best spent. This is part of ongoing discussions with members of the healthcare industry.
They aim to invest in new healthcare projects, training new healthcare workers, reforming current systems to make them more effective, and investing in new technology to improve prevention and treatment.
Also, the Commissioners pointed out that, if the EU wants to improve healthcare in rural areas, there needs to be an increased focus on local support and the link between social services and health services.
Lastly, the Commissioners agreed that more focus needs to go on preventing diseases. At the moment, only 3% of the budget goes towards prevention schemes, compared to 80% of the budget being spent on treatments.
Commissioner Andriukaitis noted: “Spending only 3% of our health budgets on prevention, compared with 80% on the treatment of diseases, is simply not enough. We need better access to primary healthcare so that the emergency room isn’t people’s first port of call.”
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