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Hungary confronts corruption in its health service

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 21 September 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:621
  1. Thomas Land
  1. Budapest

    The Socialist-Liberal coalition government in Hungary has promised to tackle what it describes as widespread corruption in the health service. It proposes to restructure healthcare finance and discard the 50 year old state monopoly provider of medical insurance.

    The cabinet will publish draft legislation early this autumn, after a month long consultation period just ended. It blames the problem of corruption on the low pay of medical staff and the insurance structure inherited from the bygone communist regime.

    Dr Lajos Molnár, the health minister, described the dependence of healthcare provision on ubiquitous “gratuity” payments for supposedly free services as “a minefield of explosive conflicting interests.”

    Patients make such payments to medical staff to purchase privileged treatment at the expense of other patients, he says, with most people paying for fear of losing out. He calculates that such payments total as much as 100bn forints (£250m; €370m; $470m) a year.

    Several recent academic studies have examined corruption in the service. They describe various practices, such as nurses ignoring the discomfort of patients unless they are given gratuities of …

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