Healthcare and Hospitals
Below photo shows Julija (26), a friend of my host Vilda, in a university hospital of Vilnius after she fell on her back earlier on the day during an excursion to the Centre of Europe Park. She got her spinal cord injured and has to stay in hospital for two days. By the time she is allowd to leaves, she will have to wear a corset for a month in order to recover properly. I already planned to write about the healthcare system in Lithuania, but am now using her accident as an introduction to the rest of what I have been finding out.
As I learnt during two days ago from Tadas, health care is one of the few fields where corruption still touches daily people`s lives. Lithuania may be third in the list of most corrupted countries in Europe, most of the scandals are on high political and corporate level. Some cases make it to the news, but people have become almost indifferent to the issue because it doesn`t concern them in their daily lives. The medical world is an exception. Paying money to doctors before you undergo surgery is normal and even expected behaviour. It is not even the doctors requesting additional money for the job. The additional pay, a present, serves as additional insurance for the patient that the operation will be carried out to the surgeon`s best abilities. Money is usually transmitted in an envelope along with a small encouraging .
..no preferred treatment in hospital this time
Unlike in many other countries, doctors in Lithuania do not earn sky-high salaries. The medical profession used to be very high in esteem during Soviet times, and many people cherished the ambition to work as a doctor. After Lithuania`s independence, there was an abundance of doctors which led to low incomes and thus higher susceptibility for corruption. Apart from this, many medical staff left abroad. Personnel advertisements for medical positions in Sweden, the United States or the United Kingdom frequently appear in newspapers and they attract huge attention.
The medical healthcare system officially covers all employees, who pay a small portion of their salaries to the healthcare authorities. Dentists are not included in the insurance package. Once insured, any person has right to public medical healthcare. Private healthcare is also available but at higher cost. The biggest difference with public healthcare: everything goes quicker and patients get more individual attention.
Julija is not so lucky to get preferred treatment today. She has been taken to the public hospital by ambulance. Shortly after her little accident, Vilda, her sister Agile and myself join her in hospital for some mental support. We climb the stairs of the massive building to reach the sixth floor and reach a four-bed room with nothing much more than those 4 beds and a sink. The walls have been painted in light green and white and, like the corridor, everything is covered in polished concrete tiles.
Julija has already been diagnosed by the time we arrive. We get to see an X-ray photo that to us shows nothing. A female doctor explains that one of the bones in her spinal cord is slightly dislocated. It is mainly inconvenient because painful, but fortunately it`s not a very serious injury. The four of us try to cheer her up a little and the above photo shows at least some temporary success.
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