Montenegro rests on the Balkan coast, bordering four Southeastern European countries: Bosnia, Albania, Serbia and Croatia. Though small, with a population of 622,359, Montenegro caught the attention of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The UNDP critiqued the country’s high employment rate and its “lack of citizen participation in social processes.” To “combat poverty and social exclusion,” the UNDP suggested Montenegro’s government “effective[ly] and adequate[ly] target health, employment and social services.” In 2019, the conversation shifted toward healthcare in Montenegro and potential reform.
3 Factors Affecting Healthcare in Montenegro
- Deficient Government Budgeting and Spending: According to Pacific Prime Insurance, Montenegro has “the most backward health system in Europe.” While this statement might seem hyperbolic, the UNDP highlighted issues within Montenegro’s central government. A closer look at its Ministry of Health’s policies reveals deficient government budgeting and spending. In 2019, China-CEE Institute found that Montenegrins readily critique their government for inadequately spending 9% of the state’s budget on healthcare. That is more than 4% of the country’s total GDP, making the cost of its healthcare system relatively high. Yet, medical and insurance programs continue to suffer. China-CEE Institute argued that the country needs a new model for financing healthcare, one that can provide fair insurance policies, quality hospitals and ample medical equipment.
- Poor Quality of Care: Inadequate budgeting affects the implementation of quality healthcare in Montenegro. China-CEE Institute registered hospitals’ critiques and discovered that their personnel lacks the means to systematically control the spread of diseases. Montenegrin hospitals do not monitor proper hand-washing procedures or maintain hygienic policies. As a result, they also claimed that “[in] Montenegrin health institutions, 265 hospital infections were registered for the first six months of 2019, while only 28 were recorded in 2014.” Without proper sanitation practices, people cannot prevent or suppress diseases, so healthcare in Montenegro continues to suffer.
- Lack of Medical Professionals: Improper sanitation might stem from a shortage of medical personnel in Montenegrin hospitals and pharmacies. One study discovered a significant “outflow of human resources” from Montenegro as doctors often leave to work in other countries. This suggests that doctors might have some frustrations with Montenegro’s healthcare system. In 2018, Pacific Prime Insurance found 2,061 doctors working in the Montenegrin healthcare system. That is about 3.3 doctors per 1,000 people, which is slightly lower than the European average at 3.4. Pacific Prime Insurance also found Montenegro has the “lowest proportion of pharmacists per head in Europe – 17 per 100,000.” Due to insufficient budgeting, Montenegrin hospitals and pharmacies require effective healthcare teams.
While these statistics appear pessimistic at first glance, Montenegro’s government strives to amend its healthcare system. The Ministry of Health took its citizens’ considerations to heart by holding a discussion panel in 2019. Alongside the Association of Professional Journalists in Montenegro, the Challenges of Public Consumption: How Much Does Health Cost discussion panel sought to reform the country’s health financing.
To maintain their human resources, the Ministry of Health will provide better training for doctors and specialists. This will increase the number of medical professionals in hospitals and hopefully improve sanitation practices. While the UNDP awaits the results of these decisions, it is clear that healthcare in Montenegro is taking a step in the right direction.
– Kyler Juarez