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6 Facts About Healthcare In Bulgaria

6 Facts About Healthcare In BulgariaBulgaria is an Eastern European country south of Greece, north of Romania, and east of the Black Sea. With a population of 7 million and cultural influence from the Ottoman Empire, Greece, and Persia, Bulgaria has a unique and diverse background. Healthcare is a vital aspect of European life and Bulgaria is no different. Here are facts about healthcare in this country.

Bulgaria Has Centralized Healthcare

Healthcare in Bulgaria is largely centralized, with the National Assembly, the National Health Insurance Fund, and the Ministry of Health being the main funders. Social single-payer healthcare is monitored through the NHIF, which covers services included in the benefits package and certain medications. Voluntary healthcare is administered by for-profit insurance companies and deals with both the citizens and providers.

These systems, working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, fund services including emergency care in-patient mental health care and developing medical science. The amount of money spent on healthcare in Bulgaria continues to rise, but fees for citizens are staying the same.

The Bulgarian Healthcare System is Overcrowded

In 2016, Bulgaria had just over 321 hospitals and less than 50,000 beds as the population was continuing to grow. This led to a severe overcapacity of the healthcare system. Just over 5.5 % of working adults serve in the healthcare field. While the number of physicians has increased, general practitioners have been on the decline. This is partly due to aging and the ongoing emigration problem. The number of nurses has continued to be the EU’s worst rate with just 1.1 nurses per physician. Overall, healthcare in Bulgaria faces challenges such as a lack of medical equipment and healthcare providers.

Overall Health is On the Rise

The primary causes of death in Bulgaria are the same as in most European countries: Circulatory diseases, such as coronary heart failure and strokes, and cancers. Despite this, the standardized death rates for circulatory diseases have been steadily decreasing since the 1990s. Deaths by ischaemic heart disease fell by 30% from 2014 to 2015 and cancer deaths have been on the decline for over a decade. This positive trend is due to improved healthcare in Bulgaria and better lifestyle choices.

The Population is Declining

The Bulgarian population has been declining from nine million at the end of the 1980s to fewer than seven million by 2018. The primary reason is a low birthrate, compounded by a high rate of emigration. In 2015, over 13,000 citizens were leaving the country compared with only 9,000 foreigners entering. However, most Bulgarians end up immigrating to other European countries, with 0ver 60,000 Bulgarians migrating each year.

One reason for emigration is that the country is the poorest within the European Union, with most citizens unable to support themselves and healthcare in Bulgaria being difficult to access.

Bulgaria is Well Behind the Rest of the EU

Although healthcare in Bulgaria is good by some measures, the country is far behind the rest of the European Union. The quality of work is so low that protests have taken to the streets against low wages, corruption, and high bills. This led to the government resigning, causing more economic instability within the country. The unemployment rates are lower than in crisis-ridden nations; however, because of low wages, more Bulgarians are considering moving to Greece and Spain that have higher unemployment rates. Bulgaria is often referred to as the unhappiest country in the EU.

Bulgaria’s Increased Healthcare Spending

Healthcare in Bulgaria has been heavily altered by the novel coronavirus, with an increase in healthcare spending by 250 million leva or 123 million euros. Half of the increased spending will go to the National Health Insurance Fund that manages insurance and distributes funds to the healthcare system. A significant portion of the money will go to increasing the salaries of frontline medical staff until the end of the year as well as medical and other health personnel state institutions dealing with the pandemic.

Although Bulgaria is far behind the rest of the European Union in many different ways, Bulgaria is a progressive nation with universal healthcare and low hospital bills. With more investments in general practitioners and healthcare facilities, as well as better living conditions and incentives to increase the population, healthcare in Bulgaria will be stronger than ever.

– Breanna Bonner
Photo: Flickr