Italian healthcare system ha a shortage of doctors. Image shows doctors in surgery

Italian national healthcare system under threat


Italy’s national healthcare system is under scrutiny as regional authorities, scientists, and Nobel laureates criticise the government’s handling of the system amid and post the COVID-19 crisis.

Recent reports to parliament by the Corte dei Conti highlight a 17-year low in healthcare funding, with Italy’s national health fund declining significantly compared to other European countries like Germany and France.

The ratio of healthcare spending to GDP has dropped to 6.3%, below the OECD and EU average of 7.1% and well below France and Germany’s 10%.

The debate over health funding has intensified, leading to potential clashes between regional authorities and the central government. The Conference of the Regions has issued an ultimatum, demanding the repeal of an article cutting €1.2 billion earmarked for hospitals for earthquake safety measures. Failure to comply could result in legal action taken to the Constitutional Court.

Meanwhile, prominent scientists, including Nobel laureate Giorgio Parisi and the president of the Higher Health Council, Franco Locatelli, have called for the protection and revitalisation of Italy’s National Health Service. They note the decline in health indicators, difficulties in accessing diagnostic and treatment services, and growing regional and social inequalities. The scientists advocate for healthcare funding to reach 8% of GDP, aligning with advanced European standards.

Giorgio Parisi warned against mirroring the United States’ healthcare system, stressing the importance of Italy’s National Health Service in ensuring universal access to healthcare and preventing unreasonable increases in healthcare costs.

In December, medics striked over proposed cuts in their pensions.

Adequate funding needed for healthcare system

Elena Granaglia, a professor and member of the Inequalities and Diversity Forum, stressed the urgent need for adequate public funding to prevent the collapse of Italy’s vital healthcare system. She cautioned against relying on private funding, “If public funding is cut, the only alternative is the growth of private funding: as empirical evidence shows, private health care costs more, creates inequalities and increases the risks of inadequacy.”

The National Federation of the Orders of Surgeons and Dentists echoed these concerns, urging investment in healthcare professionals to address stagnant salaries and improve working conditions.

President Filippo Anelli called for lifting recruitment caps and making the national health service more attractive to retain talent and meet citizens’ healthcare needs effectively.

Shortage of doctors

Italy faces a shortage of approximately 30,000 doctors, with numerous hospitals and emergency rooms closed in recent years. Solutions, such as engaging Cuban health workers and advocating for legislative measures, are being explored.

The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported today on the number of Argentinian doctors and healthcare professionals currently working in Italy. They are in Italy under the Covid emergency decree, but that expires in 2025. If the Italian healthcare system does not recognise their medical degrees and qualifications, they will have to return home.

This will not only affect the Italian system but the Argentinians themselves. Many of them have Italian ancestors and ‘returned’ to Italy to escape soaring inflation in Argentina and to return to their roots.

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