SEATTLE, Washington — The system of healthcare in Lithuania is one of the country’s proudest accomplishments. It offers universal and free emergency services to all citizens as well as state-funded coverage to all employed people. The state insurance also protects people with disabilities, caregivers for children, the elderly and students in secondary or higher education, without these groups having to contribute to the fund. Lithuania’s healthcare system has made great strides, and the country is continually addressing both new and old issues in the system.
High Pharmaceutical Costs
Lithuania boasts a high doctor to patient ratio, however, the quality of state hospitals continues to be a concern. Furthermore, the percentage of Lithuanians recording good health is only 43%, with a life expectancy that falls at six years below EU averages. Large contributing factors to these statistics are the high cost of pharmaceuticals and the extended focus on inpatient care versus prevention or outpatient care.
Despite mostly free healthcare services, Lithuanians pay the full cost of all pharmaceuticals. This contributes to the country’s healthcare spending, which is still half of the average for the EU. Having to pay the full price of pharmaceuticals showcases the disparities between the wealthy and the poor. Poor and vulnerable populations are unable to treat their ailments once they leave the doctor’s office. This leads to bribery and corruption, with 35% of pharmacy workers stating that they were offered bribes to acquire cheaper medicines. To combat this problem, the Ministry of Health implemented caps on certain drugs in 2017 and continues to work on ways to make medicine more accessible to low-income residents.
Primary and Preventative Care Initiatives
Preventative healthcare in Lithuania continues to fall behind similar countries throughout Europe. Lithuania also has an oversupply of hospitals and hospital beds. However, the country does not have enough primary and preventive care, leading to a higher average mortality rate than the EU. In recent years, this is beginning to shift, with the Ministry of Health focusing on improving “disease prevention and control and health education.” For example, cancer screenings have significantly increased in the past 10 years, indicating improved preventative measures which result in a higher five-year survival rate and decreased death rate. Additionally, hospitals are beginning to form networks and consolidate their services to reduce “duplicates” and “overlap.” This shift will allow doctors to provide a wider variety of services at different locations with improved quality and care.
Mental Health on the Rise in Lithuania
The Ministry of Health also focuses on improving mental health treatment and facilities in Lithuania, which is a large component of healthcare in Lithuania. Out of all EU member states, Lithuania’s suicide rate is the highest. In response, Lithuania has started new initiatives such as “Mental Health of Children and Teens after the EU Enlargement: Development of Effective Policy and Practices” to combat this problem early on and ensure children have the necessary resources to address their mental health.
Mental Health Perspectives is a leader in mental health awareness and treatment in Lithuania. This organization was founded in 2000 and is part of a larger international organization called the Federation Global Initiative on Psychiatry. Its mission is to provide “ethical and effective mental healthcare” and educate all people on mental health issues. Mental Health Perspectives also lobbies for new legislation to further the mental healthcare system.
Healthcare in Lithuania has drastically improved since the turn of the century. However, further and continual improvements are necessary to ensure a longer and healthier life for all Lithuanians. The Ministry of Health continues to work diligently to reduce pharmaceutical prices and improve mental health treatment. Thus far, Lithuania is on the right track toward a strong and stable healthcare system and to making even greater strides in health.
– Allison Caso