by | November 26, 2019 | Opinion

The East – West Health Divide in the European Union

by Vlad Mixich, EPHA Board Member, Romanian Health Observatory


The most influential European publication in the health policy area, POLITICO Europe, dedicated an entire panel to the East – West Health Divide during their annual Health Care Summit in Amsterdam. That’s remarkable given the sensitivity of the topic for heavy political players at EU level.

Three of the biggest challenges for Eastern EU member states are partially caused by EU legislation failures or adverse effects of how the EU works (or does not work) in the health area.

1. Medical Doctors brain drain

Western EU countries are attracting the best physicians trained in Eastern EU countries without paying a penny for their training, which is covered by Eastern taxpayers. For example, Romania is today Europe’s physicians factory. Meanwhile, Romania and Poland has the lowest rate of medical practitioners, with tremendous problems in the rural areas. Solutions to compensate such a situation must be designed at EU level, without hindering the free movement of medical doctors.

2. The failure of current pharmaceutical legislation at EU level

The failure of current pharmaceutical legislation at EU level is today more and more obvious – it creates for EU citizens living in Eastern EU countries (e.g. Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania) recurrent problems of medicines availability caused by stock outs, pricing issues or product launch sequencing. Any solution designed at EU level to tackle shortages or pricing issues must consider root causes specific for Eastern member states.

3. Major dificulties with implementing the Cross-border Healthcare Directive (2011/24/EU)

Whether you are a German, a Dutch or a Romanian citizen, the Cross-border Directive guarantees the same rights and quality of care for all EU citizens. The EU authorities must be more active in enforcing Cross-border Directive’s rules. Unfortunately, more often than not, national governments are raising all kind of bureaucratic barriers which make patients’ life difficult and violates their rights as EU citizens.


All these three topics have maximum relevance for any Eastern European citizen. I hope that MEPs from relevant commissions (and not only) will pay attention to them and will work to find good solutions. My Europe is not concerned only with highly incomprehensible bureacratic details, but takes care of each EU citizen, regardless their place of birth and even more when it’s about their health. That’s the Europe I love, respect and support.

Get the EPHA Newsletter

Get involved !

Get involved !

Sign up here to receive our updates on European health policy and invitations to our events.

Subscribe now

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This