Friday, 17 January 2020

Patients Do Not Have Equal Opportunity for Lung Cancer Screening

ZAGREB, January 17, 2020 - The Dignitatis association of patients on Friday welcomed the National Lung Cancer Early Detection Programme, saying however that the programme was discriminatory because not all patients had equal access to the programme as only certain hospitals possess the necessary LDCT screening equipment.

"When the programme was being planned it should have taken account that all counties need that equipment as the majority of patients who would perhaps decide to participate in the programme will not be in a position to do so because of the distance and costs involved," Dignitatis said in a press release.

"We condemn this discrimination against patients in Croatia and ask that before the programme is implemented that the Health Ministry secured the necessary apparatus in all county centres for the programme to be able to be implemented in a quality way and be accessible to all patients," Marina Novaković Matanić of Dignitatis said.

The KoHOM association of family doctors on Thursday warned that conditions had not been established to implemented the screening programme.

With the announcement that the first screens could start as of Friday has put family doctors in an awkward situation because they have to explain to patients that the programme is not ready yet.

We welcome the national programme, which we helped prepare. We are prepared for cooperation in implementing it however the programme has not come to life nor will it tomorrow either as announced in the media, KoHOM said on Thursday in a press release.

KoHOM has asked that patients for their understanding and to approach the Croatian Health Insurance Institute and Health Ministry for any further information.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Short-Term Air Pollution in Zagreb Not Dangerous for Human Health

ZAGREB, January 16, 2020 - The Dr. Andrija Štampar Teaching Institute for Public Health issued a health alert on Thursday due to increased levels of particulate matter in the air in Zagreb, saying that the short-term air pollution, usual for this time of the year, did not present a major threat to human health.

It said in a statement that increased levels of particulate matter were usual in the winter months because of coal-powered household and industrial heating systems being used at this time of the year, compounded by road transport and weather.

The Institute advised vulnerable people, such as children, pregnant women, the elderly, persons with chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, persons with an impaired immune response and smokers to adjust their daily routines and avoid long and intensive physical activities outdoors, especially near roads.

People were also advised to use public transport and avoid or reduce the use of solid fuels for heating.

Data from air quality monitoring stations, posted on the website of the Environment and Nature Agency, showed that the quality of air in the entire city was poor on Thursday. The situation was worst in the south-eastern district of Dugave where the concentration of PM10 particles in the air was 112.7 μg/m3 at 11.30 am, while the 24-hour limit value is 50 μg/m3.

More environmental protection news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Croatian Nursing Council Condemns Grabar-Kitarović's Statement about Corruption

ZAGREB, January 14, 2020 - The Croatian Nursing Council (HKMS) on Tuesday condemned a statement made by President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović in which she mentioned nurses in the context of corruption.

Talking about corruption in Croatian society, Grabar-Kitarović said that "friends asked her why she did not take anything to the hospital, because nurses expect that." The President insinuated that nurses "expect gifts" from their patients, HKMS stated.

"Nurses and medical technicians do their jobs in a professional and ethical manner, and they are wholeheartedly committed to their patients' well-being. We find linking this humane profession with corruptive actions unacceptable," they stated.

"Every concerned citizen who knows of or suspects a crime is being committed has the duty to report it, indicating the full name of the suspected person. Labelling nursing as a corrupt profession is unacceptable," said the president of the Croatian Nursing Council (HKMS) Mario Gazić.

The Croatian Nursing Council expects the government to finally start addressing the many burning issues in nursing, such as the shortage of nurses, non-recognition of nursing college degrees, poor organization and unsustainable working conditions in nursing, underpayment, injustices in promotions, irregular distribution of the workload, unclear systematization of work positions, and increasingly frequent cases of verbal and physical violence, HKMS said in a press release.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Croatia First EU Country to Conduct Early Screening of Lung Cancer in Whole Country

ZAGREB, January 14, 2020 - Croatia will be the first country in the EU to introduce early screening of lung cancer in the whole country, and all people between 50 and 70 years of age who are active smokers, or who have stopped smoking within the last 15 years, and were consuming at least 30 packs of cigarettes per year, will be included in the national lung cancer early detection programme, soon to commence across Croatia.

The goals of the programme include reducing lung cancer mortality by 20% in the next 5 to 10 years thus saving more than 500 lives annually, achieving a 50% response rate to the screening, and raising the five-year survival rate from 10 to 15%.

The national programme, conducted by the Health Ministry in cooperation with the Croatian Thoracic Association, will be officially presented on Tuesday.

Lung cancer is detected in around 3,000 people annually in Croatia, and the leading cause of the disease is smoking. Research shows that 31.1% of Croatia's population are smokers - 35.3% of men, and 27.1% of women. In 2018, 3,021 people were diagnosed with lung cancer (899 women and 2122 men), and 2,789 people died from it. The prevalence of lung cancer is stagnating in men, and rising in women.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of malignant disease deaths in the world and in Croatia. Despite considerable progress in treatment, in most cases it is still an incurable disease, and one of the main reasons for poor treatment results is the fact that two thirds of patients are diagnosed with lung cancer in the advanced stage, when recovery is no longer possible.

Screenings will be performed on low-dose high-resolution CT scanners (LDCT), which can detect even the slightest change in the lungs.

Health facilities across Croatia, in Zagreb, Osijek, Rijeka, Split, Varaždin, Zadar, Dubrovnik, Slavonski Brod, Virovitica, Pula and Krapinske Toplice, are now equipped with 16 LDCT scanners in total.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Health Insurance Institute Introduces Uniform Calendar of Medical Appointments

ZAGREB, December 19, 2019 - A uniform calendar for the registration of patients for hospital examination, which is expected to make order and reduce waiting lists for nine medical procedures, has been launched this week, and for the time being it includes 42 of the country's 64 hospitals, it was said at a news conference at the Croatian Health Insurance Institute (HZZO) on Thursday.

The hospitals included in this system have compatible information systems while the others would be integrated by May 2020.

The nine medical procedures are the ones for which currently waiting lists are the longest - MR and CT scans, Holter monitor, heart ultrasound, cardiac stress test, cataract surgery, breast ultrasound, thyroid ultrasound and gastroscopy, and there are plans to expand the list.

Patients will get medical appointments from their GPs while specific dates for procedures such as MR and CT scans, cataract surgery and gastroscopy will be allocated by specialists or hospital administrators.

A patient will be able to cancel their appointment via the eCitizen system or change the date of the examination or the hospital.

The uniform calendar of medical appointments will prevent the multiplication of medical appointments, which currently results in unrealistically long waiting lists, and making an appointment by using the patient's personal identification number will automatically prevent scheduling more than one examination of the same type in a different hospital, HZZO director Lucijan Vukelić said at the news conference.

The uniform calendar consists of red, yellow and green lists into which doctors enter appointments, with the red list designated for priority or urgent appointments, for patients who have to be scheduled for an examination within a period of 14 days.

The yellow list refers to appointments that are not urgent but have to be made so as to prevent causing harm to the patient's health by making them wait longer than prescribed by doctors.

The green list refers to procedures a patient can wait for a longer period of time or to regular check-ups.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 13 December 2019

Study Shows State of Young People's Mental Health Alarming

ZAGREB, December 13, 2019 - The Zagreb University's Faculty of Rehabilitation and Education Sciences on Friday presented results of an extensive study revealing an alarming situation regarding the mental health of young people.

In a group of 30 high school students, two use marijuana once a week or more frequently and one in three drinks alcohol once a week or more frequently - these are some of the basic indicators which show that more frequent alcohol and marijuana consumption is accompanied by poorer indicators of mental health, project head Miranda Novak said.

One in four young people have significant symptoms of anxiety and stress, and in a class of 24, at least one says they have attempted to kill themselves, Novak said, describing the situation as alarming.

On the other hand, the higher the self-awareness, the fewer the symptoms and the less frequent alcohol and marijuana consumption.

Education and Science Minister Blaženka Divjak expressed support to the study and confidence that its results would have an impact on school and other social systems.

We have cooperated with the Faculty of Rehabilitation and Education Sciences on drawing up an action plan for the prevention of school violence and it is expected to be adopted by the government soon, she said, underling the importance of its implementation through the system of intervention, policies and programmes, she said.

She underlined the importance of developing self-awareness and peer solidarity and empathy to enable young people to identify problems on their own and deal with them, she said, recalling the introduction of a number of cross-subject topics in school curricula such as personal and social development, civics and health education.

Analyses of the data show that a more stable family environment contributes to fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress and better emotional competencies and more positive mental health of young people, Novak said, adding that the results of the study showed that investing in the family environment contributed to the empowerment of young people.

As for the school environment, young people who are more emotionally competent are more willing to engage themselves with regard to school tasks and are more committed to school. Young people who are more committed to school show fewer symptoms of anxiety, she concluded.

The study also shows, among other things, that as many as 39% of young people witnessed peer violence once or more frequently over the past month, while 18% experienced it.

More news about young people in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Health Minister to Seek a Solution for Doctors' Unpaid Overtime

ZAGREB, December 11, 2019 - Following a ruling by the Supreme Court that doctors are entitled to higher pay for overtime, Health Minister Milan Kujundžić said on Tuesday he would try together with the HLS physicians' union to find a solution to this issue.

The Supreme Court ruling says that reimbursement to doctors for overtime work should also include compensation for specific work conditions and other benefits, which means that the debt to doctors accrued due to miscalculation of overtime pay is estimated at 1.5 billion kuna (203 million kuna), and so far 4,000 physicians have taken legal action against their employers over this problem.

Several hundred final verdicts have been handed down to date.

The Supreme Court ruling has been applauded by the HLS union and the Croatian Medical Chamber (HLK).

"This is our joint victory in the struggle for doctors' rights," HLK leader Krešimir Luetić said today.

HLS leader Renata Čulinović-Čaić said the ruling confirmed physicians' claims that their overtime pay was miscalculated. Now it is up to the ministry to think and find ways to pay what we have earned, she added.

Kujundžić said that the ministry would try to reach agreement with the HLS on the pace and schedule of payment of that debt. He added that the problem was inherited from the government which was in power in 2013.

More news about the healthcare system can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 6 December 2019

Life Expectancy in Croatia Lags 2.9 Years Behind EU Average

ZAGREB, Dec 6 (Hina) - Croatia's life expectancy is increasing but is still below the European Union's average by three years, according to findings of the EU report on the State of Health in its member-states.

"Although life expectancy at birth in Croatia increased by 3.4 years between 2000 and 2017, from 74.6 to 78 years, the distance to the EU average remained almost unchanged, amounting to 2.9 years," reads the report's section on Croatia

Croatia's Health Profile, which was presented in Zagreb on Friday by the Andrija Štampar Teaching Institute of Public Health, reads that one the reasons for this gap is "the low effectiveness of public health interventions," and in this context it is underscored that "anti-tobacco policies are underdeveloped, indoor smoking in public places is still widespread, and rates of teenage smoking are the third highest in the EU."

"Obesity rates are rising, particularly among children. Preventable mortality is well above the EU average," reads the report.

"Social inequalities in life expectancy appear to be less pronounced in Croatia than in many other EU countries. For instance, Croatian women with lower education live on average 1.6 years less than those who completed tertiary education, and this gap for women is far below the EU average (4.1 years).

In 2017, Croatians aged 65 could expect to live an additional 17.4 years, 2 years more than in 2000. However, more than 12 years of life of this period is spent with disabilities. The gender gap in life expectancy at age 65 is about 3.5 years in favour of women. However, there is no gender difference in the number of healthy life years because women tend to live a greater proportion of their lives after age 65 with health issues and disabilities, reads the report.

The shorter life expectancy in the Croatian cohort of elderly citizens than in the whole of the EU is the consequence of behavioural risk factors, including dietary factors, tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption and low physical activity, exceeding the EU average in particular for dietary risks and tobacco. Slightly more than half of all deaths in Croatia can be attributed to those behavioural risk factors.

Croatia spent 6.8 % of its GDP on health in 2017, much less than the EU average of 9.8 %. Although it is also among the three lowest spenders in the EU in terms of health spending per capita, Croatia has maintained a relatively high share of public spending, resulting in high levels of financial protection. However, levels of public debt still exert constraints on public spending on health. Furthermore, a large share of health expenditure goes to pharmaceuticals, far exceeding the EU average. Policy initiatives to address this include evolving centralised procurement for hospitals, but there is large scope for further action, such as increasing the share of generics. In contrast, a very small share of health expenditure is spent on long-term care, which is generally underdeveloped. In view of the ageing of the population, it will be important to increase the availability of community-based long-term care.

Croatia is advised to improve the strategic planning of human resources in the healthcare system, although in the country there are fewer unmet needs for medical care than on average in the Union.

In recent years, the number of doctors and nurses has increased in Croatia but they are unevenly distributed across the country, and many are either moving abroad or nearing retirement.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

National Lung Cancer Early Detection Programme to Be Launched in January

ZAGREB, December 1, 2019 - Croatia is launching a national lung cancer early detection programme in January 2020, and for that purpose the City of Zagreb has purchased a new, state-of-the-art CT scanner for the Jordanovac Clinic for Lung Diseases, it was said at the launch of the "We are talking about lung cancer" campaign.

"Early screening will help detect the disease in an early stage, before metastasising, which gives up to 80 percent of patients a chance to live longer than five years," Marko Jakopović of the Jordanovac Clinic said.

He said that the programme would cover, among others, long-term smokers because smoking is the leading cause of this disease in Croatia.

In Croatia, lung cancer is the most frequent form of cancer in men and the third most frequent in women. Non-smoking and raising public awareness remains the best way to combat this disease. Despite the great progress made in the last ten years in treating this disease, about 3,000 people die of lung cancer annually.

"Croatia is among the top ten countries in Europe in terms of availability of lung cancer treatment drugs. Thanks to this, 50 percent of patients with metastasised lung cancer will live longer than five years. The aim of new therapies is to turn lung cancer into a chronic disease such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Immunotherapy is now available to all Croatian patients and helps them live long and have a quality life," Jakopović said.

The head of the City of Zagreb Health Office, Vjekoslav Jelač, said that for the national lung cancer early detection programme the City of Zagreb had purchased a low-dose high-resolution CT scanner that can detect even the slightest change in the lungs. He said that in the United States early scanning had reduced the mortality rate by 20 percent and improved the quality of treatment.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Drug Abuse on the Rise in Croatia

ZAGREB, November 28, 2019 - The parliamentary Health and Social Policy Committee on Thursday discussed an annual report on drug abuse in the European Union presented two days ago in Brussels, which indicates that drug abuse is on the rise in the European Union and in Croatia too.

A special guest at today's meeting was the director of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) Alexis Goosdeel who said that the situation was concerning due to an increased presence of all drugs, both natural and synthetic, on the European market, as well as due to an increase in violence and drug related deaths.

Croatia has an important role in cooperating with eastern European countries where activities are increasing by criminal groups that import drugs directly from South America, said Goosdeel.

In the past 5 to 10 years the increased consumption of drugs is estimated at 30 billion euro a year and production is growing by 30% to 35%.

Croatia is still below the EU average regarding drug consumption and has been investing in prevention and treatment of drug-addicts, however it needs to prepare for the emergence of new drugs. Last year alone, 55 new drugs were identified as well as greater accessibility to cocaine, the director of the Croatian Institute for Public Health Željko Petković said.

The parliamentary health committee chairwoman, MP Ines Strenja, underscored that last year Croatia had a record year in successfully confiscating quantities of cocaine, adding however that a national plan to combat drug abuse 2018-2025 has still not been adopted.

"It is up to the Health Ministry to urgently put the plan up for e-consultation and into procedure so that it can finally be adopted," she said.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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