This might come as a shock to most people in Poland, but apparently Poland has a BETTER healthcare system than Britain.
Poles do complain a lot, and healthcare is one of their favourite subjects to moan about. Quite rightly so, as there is a need for massive improvements and updates. Healthcare financing badly needs to be reformed too. I don’t know whether this makes Poles feel better – but there are places in this world where healthcare is actually worse. One of those places is wealthy Britain. Believe it or not but the British Health Minister visited Poland recently to study and learn from the healthcare system management in this country.
Britain sports a system where general practitioners (Polish: internista) are responsible for the majority of diagnosis and treatment. Extreme cases qualify for hospital. And there is nothing in between. British GPs have to deal with a multitude of conditions, although they cannot possibly have advanced knowledge in all fields of medicine. Many people, therefore, reach specialist treatment only when their condition worsens.
The Polish system is opposite to the British. GPs are often referred to as ‘doctors of first contact’, and wont treat anything more serious than flu on their own. Their main task is to refer their patient to specialists (such as: cardiologists, opthalmologists, neurologists, rheumatologisst, endocrinologists, alergologists, pulmunologists etc.) who work at one of thousands of “Poradnia specjalistyczna” and to gather a patient’s whole medical history. These are the middle link between a GP and the hospital. They diagnose and treat conditions that do not require hospitalisation, and support the further treatment of patients who have left hospital.
What is more, in Britain, patients have to wait up to three days for an appointment with a GP, while in Poland they will be received the same day, or on the spot. Queing for appointments to specialist doctors and for operations in Britain could take years. Although there are some waiting times in Poland, it’s never been that drastic.
Another issue with which the British healthcare has been struggling for years is a problem with staff commitment and discipline. Hygene is poor, which results in severe hospital infections, such as MRSA superbug epidemic. Carers frequently neglect their duties regarding washing and taking care of immobile patients. Inspection bodies have reportedly been ineffective at identifying the wards and staff that have failed. Polish nurses working in the UK have told horror stories. (Disregard for hygene (and other) standards, cases of head lice and scabies left right and centre, staff ignoring patients diet requirements – sometimes with serious consequences, state inspections saying everything is fine, management getting rid of the Polish troublemakers.)
Problems with staff in Poland concentrate around the issues of bribery – either by patients, in order to skip the waiting list, or by pharmaceutical companies and their “incentives” to use particular medications. Doctors and nurses are however usually regarded as well trained, and resourceful – not least becasue they often have to work without the newest equipment available to their Western colleagues.
No wonder Polish people who have relocated to the British Isles are opening clinics for themselves (and for the autochtones). “To provide the level of service that we were accustomed to in our country” – as Jarosław Leszczyszyn, Professor of Medicine at EMC Medical Centre Dublin, puts it.
Not everything is perfect with the Polish healthcare system of course. NFZ, a state agency that signs contracts with hospitals and provides state-funded services to the general public, is being criticised for various policies. In many cases cheaper and older procedures are preferred to be covered, by the NFZ, over more advanced and expensive treatment. For many hospitals the NFZ funding is not enough, and they are deep in debt. But they say no healthcare system in the world is perfect.
Do you agree? Have you been diagnosed/treated in Poland, Britain, Ireland or elsewhere? What are your experiences?