Doctors group warns EU health care access shrinking

May 24, 2012

Access to health care is declining in Europe, and Greece in particular faces a humanitarian crisis as it cuts health and social spending, aid group Doctors of the World warned Thursday.

Even priority patients such as pregnant women and children are not getting the care they need in large European cities -- a problem that is linked to, but also larger than, the eurozone crisis, Olivier Bernard, head of the group's French chapter, told a press conference.

"The doesn't explain everything. On the contrary, it's precisely because of the crisis that we need to invest in social protections," Bernard said at an international meeting in Athens held "in solidarity" with Greece.

The head of the group's Greek chapter, Nikitas Kanakis, said the country was being driven toward a "humanitarian crisis" as the government desperately tries to cut spending to meet the terms of a bailout from the European Union and .

Kanakis warned the problem of worsening health care in Greece risked spreading to the rest of Europe as governments slash spending.

Nearly half of patients examined in 2011 in Doctors of the World's clinics in Nice, Amsterdam, Brussels, London and Munich had not received the level of care appropriate for their conditions, while 79 percent of had received no pre-natal care, the group said in a report.

Doctors of the World called for European governments to guarantee health care for every European citizen, stop deporting sick immigrants and implement policies to fight amid a resurgence of poverty-driven infections like tuberculosis.

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