Saturday, December 03, 2005

Corrupt Medicine - Nearly 70 pct of Poles Bribe Doctors

Corruption in Poland has always seemed to me to be at astronomical levels. Poland sports the worst level of corruption among the EU countries. When I lived there, I often had to deal with bribe-taking officials, be it customs agents or police officers. Thankfully, I never had to deal with the scourge of corruption in hospitals, which is even more frightening. According to a cover story in this week's Polish Newsweek, nearly 70 percent of Poles admit to giving bribes to their doctors, or about 10 percentage points higher than just two years ago. The weekly estimates about 5 billion zlotys, or $1.5 billion, in bribes flows into the Polish healthcare system every year.

I applaud Newsweek for focusing on this story. The magazine, supported by the health ministry, has proposed that doctors and hospitals decree that they would not longer take bribes. I hope this will at least spotlight this huge problem.

Certainly in the U.S., money talks in the health care system and the richer get better treatment, medicine, etc. But it's frightening that in Poland patients have to grease the wheels at every step of the way, from getting into the hospital, to receiving the right medicine or being seen by the right doctor. Who can say how many poor patients, who don't even have money to pay a small bribe, suffer because they do not get the right treatment. And if 70 percent of Poles give bribes to doctors, wouldn't this indicate that pretty much every doctor takes bribes?

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