It is no secret that rule of law in places like Slovakia is weak. Corruption, pay-offs, bribes and twisted use of power often pass for “rule of law.” However, this problem has infected health care as well, which means those who are able to bribe the doctor or health care worker is the one who will get the care.
The Economist describes Communist-era corruption as a holdover infesting much of central and eastern Europe, and not just in health care. However, it’s one thing to bribe an official to get a building permit; it’s quite another to have to do it for live-saving surgery.
In Latvia Valdis Zatlers, an orthopaedic surgeon who served as the country’s president from 2007 to 2011, accepted what he called “gratitude payments” from patients without declaring them to the tax authorities. He was fined just 250 lats ($466). A European Commission survey in 2013 found 28% of respondents in Romania and 21% in Lithuania had made informal payments to doctors, compared to an EU average of 5%. (more…)