The number of people waiting for surgery in Hungary has hit a new record high of 50,000 since September, as the healthcare system is struggling to provide care to everybody in time due to the coronavirus epidemic and other systemic problems in the sector.
As a result of the strain that the coronavirus epidemic has been putting on Hungarian healthcare, along with several other systemic problems including low wages and lack of workforce in the sector, the number of people awaiting surgery hit a record high of 41,000 in September. Since then, this number has risen further, exceeding 50,000 by the beginning of December, economic daily Világgazdaság reports.
According to the National Health Insurance Fund (NEAK), the largest backlog is for cataract operations, with 16,867 people waiting for surgeries. The average wait time is two to four months, but in extreme cases, it can be as long as several years. Meanwhile, just over 9,000 people are waiting for knee replacement surgeries with an average wait time of nine months, which can grow to five years in some cases. The third longest wait list is for hip replacement surgery, with just over 7,600 people waiting for an average of six months. In extreme cases, the wait time for such surgery can be up to seven years.
When the waiting lists exceeded 40,000 in September, NEAK planned to try to reduce the waiting lists through performance-based financing and by settling on-call duty payments for doctors.
However, the president of the Independent Health Care Trade Union (FESZ) says the extremely long hospital wait times are caused not only by a lack of funding for hospitals but also by the increase in the number of postponed elective surgeries due to covid, and by the insufficient wages of healthcare workers. As long as these conditions are not resolved, waiting lists will not shrink, the president of FESZ told broadcaster ATV.
At the end of September, the government earmarked 12.2 billion forints to tackle hospital waiting lists. Just before the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, there were around 23-28,000 people on waiting lists in Hungary. Now roughly twice as many people are waiting for operations than one and a half years ago.
Featured photo illustration by Zoltán Balogh/MTI