Fourth Regional Conference on Cross-Border Healthcare
The last EPF Cross-Border Healthcare Regional Conference took place in Tallinn, Estonia, on 6-8 October. This final event in a series of four on this topic gathered patients’ representatives from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden. Further conferences will be organised in 2015 in other EU countries.
Four conferences, one common concern: the lack of available information on the Directive for patients. Most of the Estonian participants did not know of it before receiving our invitation and the majority of them committed to disseminate what they have learned to their peers.
Baiba Ziemele, President of the Latvian Haemophilia Society (pictured, left), was one of the few aware of the legislative tool: “I was waiting for it to solve many problems patients face in our national healthcare system. Unfortunately it doesn’t help because of the high financial investment needed before actually getting the service abroad” she complained.
Financial inequality appeared as a major barrier for healthcare access due to the requirement for patients to pay upfront for treatment before seeking reimbursement. An Estonian participant said: "In the former Soviet bloc countries, cross-border healthcare is a dream as only few people have the resources to access it."
Diversity of National Contact Points
The wide disparity in resources allocated by member states to the existing National Contact Points (NCP) was striking. The Estonian Contact Point for instance is alone whilst more than 70 representatives work across Sweden. A Danish participant pointed out that their "NCPs are hardly visible in Denmark" while Baiba already knew her Latvian contact person, having “e-mailed each other on some questions”.
The Tallinn session finally looked at what participants consider to be an ideal NCP. It emerged that they need a responsive, patient-friendly agency that does not only provide good information, but also offers solutions for the patient's journey. They specified that it should ensure patients who need care abroad actually access it without bankrupting themselves in the process.
“These regional conferences have shown the important and valuable contribution that patients’ organisations can make to ensure that this Directive reflects the realities of patients and has the maximum positive impact on the lives of European citizens. We will soon disseminate the Conference report, and we will also look at setting up a tool, such as an internet forum or a Facebook group, to enable all the participants to keep in touch with each other and share what they are doing at coming home" said EPF President Anders Olauson.
He concluded: "Next year will be important for patients. The European Commission will for the first time assess the implementation of the Directive in Member States and we will ensure that grassroots patients’ experiences inform it.”
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Contact: Kaisa Immonen-Charalambous, EPF Senior Policy Advisor, firstname.lastname@example.org