During the COVID-19 crisis, European hospitals faced major difficulties related to procurement and labour recruitment shortages. But inflation is now weakening all efforts to deliver health services in facilities. Month after month, Eurostat reports rising prices for goods and services. Annual inflation in the Eurozone is up to 9.1%, with many countries facing double-digit inflation.
National budgets allocated to health care are fixed annually by Member States. But, rising costs are no longer sustainable with fixed allocations by governments, public payers or even, in some situations, long-term contracts with insurance companies. Inflation is both threatening the quality of medical services and limiting patient access.
The shock is currently coming from the energy sector, but beforehand the prices of medical supplies were already rising, salary issues were being raised by health care personnel who were under extreme pressure during the health crisis and are now also concerned with rising living costs. Structural costs are also no longer adapted to the emerging situation. Hospitals, which are under enormous pressure to maintain and control their expenses, are now on the verge of collapse.
NOW is the time to act. Patient access is no longer guaranteed, and safety could be compromised. All of the hospital managers’ efforts to maintain high-level services are no longer feasible without budget corrections.
Without immediate budgetary correlation with costs, hospitals can no longer fulfil their mission. Throughout the EU, the situation is critical and national hospital federations, whether public or private, have already expressed their distress in the Press. As this is a problem that affects the European social model, UEHP is calling for common recommendations to Member State governments for a coordinated response. European inflation threatens healthcare organizations in their commitment to provide legitimate services to the population.
We now call for European commitment and support:
i) To take, without delay, an immediate and active Pan EU stance in terms of health care costs and budgets. This is absolutely necessary to ensure that hospital and related health care services continue to be accessible to all the European population.
ii) To apply an automatic and specific index dedicated to provision of health care to both private & public entities, in order to maintain a direct correlation between costs and fees.
iii) To consider Health as a main and specific priority and adjust State budgets to double digit inflation, including financial support and fiscal adaptation so that providers can continue to ensure quality of care.