The quality of healthcare in the Czech Republic is generally very high. It consistently ranks top among Central European countries, and often shows up in the top locations in the world. For this reason, it is becoming a popular destination for medical tourism, and since the early 2000s the government has been bringing in measures to ensure that this does not place too much of a strain on the public health system.The health system runs on a two-tier approach: public healthcare is provided by the state, but some people also opt to add private health cover.
Although the quality of the care you receive should be the same either way — some doctors work in both sectors, so you might even be seen by the same people — there are reports of shorter waiting times for private patients, and you will also have more choice of which specialists you see, and where you see them, if you do take out private cover.
The State Of Health In The EU Report, published in 2017, shows a high level of healthcare in the public and private systems alike.
Waiting times in the Czech Republic are among the most equitable in Europe, and unlike in many other countries, there is not much difference based on travel time or level of income. The report found that the level of unmet medical needs due to waiting times was very low — the Czech Republic was in seventh place out of the 29 locations studied, whereas the UK, for example, came in ten places lower at seventeen.
Life expectancy among the local population has risen in the last few years, although it is still a couple of years below the EU average, at 78.7. Cardiovascular diseases are the highest cause of death in the country; a statistic that is probably linked to the high popularity of smoking. Alcohol use and obesity are also high, and the latter is a rising concern.
Maternity care is excellent in the Czech Republic; the country provides excellent pre- and post-natal care for its residents, and it has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.
Over the past few years, and particularly since the rise in medical tourism to the country, the Czech Republic has implemented a number of measures to increase efficiency and make the public health system more cost-effective. This has mainly taken the form of requiring non-residents to take out health insurance or pay out of pocket, which has meant that the growing strain on the public system has eased off.
Overall the public healthcare system is accessible and of a very high quality, and this is aided by the state’s excellent benefits system which provides care that is free at the point of service for those who cannot afford to pay. The benefits system is open to all residents and works on a sliding scale, and the levels are among the most generous in the EU.
As in many other countries, where you live can play a disproportionate role in the quality of medical care you receive. In the cities there is an excellent quality of care, with high standards and plenty of doctors; but the further you move into the rural areas of the country, the lower the provisions are.
Modernisation is another challenge: most of the country’s health facilities were built decades ago and have not been updated to any great degree, so they can look brutalist and uninviting, which in turn can have an impact on patients’ mental and physical health.
As well as the look of the facilities, the infrastructure and safety of some institutions — particularly mental health facilities and general hospitals in rural areas — potentially puts some patients at risk. A lot of these are severely understaffed and have not made the technological developments necessary to bring them into the 21st century, which means patients might be served by outdated measures and their records might not be kept securely. There are also problems when transmitting patient data between institutions, where one facility is more rural and thus does not have access to the same software programs as the newer hospitals in the larger cities, for example.
The EU report quoted above suggests that sanctions should be put in place for institutions that are not living up to modern standards. Currently there is legislation defining the minimum level of technical equipment, and the miminum amount of staff, that should be available in each facility; but as it stands at the moment, there are no disciplinary measures in place for those who do not live up to the minimum standards.
Another reason why some expats in the Czech Republic choose to take out private health insurance, particularly if they plan to stay in the country for the long term, is due to concern that the ageing population will make it impossible for the state health system to remain as financially stable as it currently is.
At the moment, when a person reaches pensionable age and leaves the workforce, they are not required to contribute for their own healthcare, and instead are covered by the state’s extensive benefits system. This has worked well in practice over the last couple of decades, but as the population ages there are concerns about whether there will be enough money flowing into the state system to continue insuring all residents, including vulnerable groups.
The state of healthcare on the whole remains excellent, particularly if you take out private cover to reduce waiting times and allow you to choose which specialist you see. Rural areas suffer from a lack of modernisation, but in the cities most facilities will be of an excellent standard both in terms of healthcare and general infrastructure.
Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other readers? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!