Are healthcare systems ready for the pandemic?
The curfews in many European countries are mainly aimed at slowing down the spread of the virus. Because if too many people fall ill at the same time, even an optimal system will collapse sooner or later. But the systems in many states are far from perfect, commentators note with some bitterness.
Politicians will be called to account
Going by the pseudonym Claude Baniam, a psychiatrist at Mulhouse Hospital expresses his anger in Libération:
“I'm angry because I know that these fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, grandfathers and grandmothers will die alone in an overwhelmed hospital despite the courageous efforts of the nursing staff; alone, without their families' loving looks and hands. ... I'm angry because those who come to work every day, despite their fear of being infected, have been scorned in the political discourse for years. ... I'm angry because the politicians have destroyed our social system and our healthcare system, and have constantly told us that everyone must do their bit to achieve the hallowed balanced budget. ... We will demand accountability from all those who have put us in this terrible situation.”
Health always played an ancillary role so far
The pandemic show just how wrong the Cypriot government's priorities were, Haravgi points out:
“For seven consecutive years [since the banking crisis in 2013] it preferred to build high-rise buildings and issue passports rather than concentrate on the citizens themselves. The weakened state of the public healthcare system has been exposed in the worst possible way. We don't have enough equipment to fight the virus and we're continually one step behind events. This crisis also shows how little the government has done to provide social support to its citizens.”
It's not just money that's lacking
Romania has the smallest health budget in Europe and its doctors have to contend with very poor working conditions, political analyst Alina Mungiu-Pippidi writes in Romenia Curata:
“Now that doctors are being recalled from retirement or holidays across Europe, Romanians will perhaps begin to understand why the PSD had to increase doctors' salaries [in August 2018]: otherwise they all would have emigrated. There's a shortage of doctors all over Europe, they would have had no problem finding a job. ... However they didn't just leave because of the low salaries but also because it's difficult to operate when politicians are continually meddling in hospital matters, organisation is lacking and many patients don't know the first thing about either hygiene or friendliness. ... After all, hospitals can't be better than society as a whole.”
Eastern European carers essential
Many elderly Austrians are cared for around the clock by workers from Romania, Slovakia and Hungary. The country can count itself lucky that so many have stayed instead of going home to their families, Der Standard comments:
“In the previous year, the ÖVP and the FPÖ adjusted the family allowance for EU citizens whose children live abroad downwards, to the cost of living in those countries. For the already low-earning carers from Eastern Europe that boils down to a cut in pay. ... In view of the impending nursing emergency, hopefully even the ÖVP will finally understand that this measure affected people who are essential to our society. The move also undermined European solidarity. It's quite possible that some politicians in neighbouring countries will be thinking of this hostile act when Austria tries to secure travel permits for their nurses.”