Sunday, 3 February 2019

Cancer Survival Rates in Croatia below European Average

ZAGREB, February 3, 2019 - In Croatia, about 23,000 patients are diagnosed with cancer annually, and this disease takes 11,000 lives in the country every year. The findings of a global survey, which were published last year, show that the cancer survival rates in Croatia were in the lower half of the ranking that includes European countries. The survey covered about 220,000 patients in Croatia.

The data about the five-year survival rates for 15 types of cancers in adults and three in children show Croatia's poor performance when it comes to five types.

Thus, Croatia's lung cancer survival rate is a mere 10%, survival prostate rate stands at 81%, stomach 20%, colon 51%, rectal cancer 48% and myeloid leukaemia in adults 32%.

Furthermore, the country's breast cancer survival rate is 79%, melanoma of skin 77%, and cervical cancer 63%.

On the other hand, when it comes to children diagnosed with cancer, the survival rates are on a par with developed European countries. In Croatia, overall survival rates for children with lymphoma stands at 95%, brain tumours 73% and acute myeloid leukaemia 85%.

Croatia can improve the performance with progress in early diagnosis and treatment of cancers. In the same vein, Croatians are encouraged more and more to undergo cancer screening, which helps to detect cancer before symptoms appear.

Croatia's Croatian League Against Cancer is a member of the Union for International Cancer Control's (UICC) that organises campaigns on 4 February to raise the awareness of importance of cancer research, prevention of that disease and of raising awareness and mobilising the global community to make progress against cancer.

The main slogan for this year's World Cancer Day is "I am and I will".

"2019 marks the launch of the 3-year ‘I Am and I Will’ campaign. ‘I Am and I Will’ is an empowering call-to-action urging for personal commitment and represents the power of individual action taken now to impact the future," says that international organisation.

In 2018, 18 million new cases of cancer were detected, and 9.6 million cancer-related deaths were registered.

World Cancer Day was established on 4 February 2000 at the World Summit Against Cancer for the New Millennium in Paris.

More news on the health issues in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Opposition for Legal, Free and Accessible Abortion in Croatia

ZAGREB, January 31, 2019 - The leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Davor Bernardić, told a press conference on Wednesday that his party had sent a draft bill on the medical procedure of pregnancy termination to a 15-day public debate and underscored that abortion in Croatia had to be legal, free and accessible.

"We have witnessed individuals and political parties in Croatia advocate banning abortion and taking us back to the 18th century and SDP will stand against discrimination and reactionary forces in society," SDP's leader said.

He announced that the SDP-sponsored bill regulated the right of women to self-determination, freedom to decide to give birth to children or to abort, the right of minors and disabled persons to abortion, abortion legal time limit, the protection of health and lives of pregnant women, counselling prior to abortion, sterilisation, education for everyone, free contraception, choice between surgical or medication abortion, who has the right to perform the procedure, supervision of authorised institutions and clinics, conscientious objection, financing the cost of abortion and penalties for violation of the law.

He recalled that according to the Constitutional Court ruling the Abortion Act has to be amended by the end of February and "Health Minister Milan Kujundžić's announcement that the new bill won't be adopted within the said deadline," Bernardić said, "just shows his attitude toward the Constitutional Court and toward women's rights."

"This arrogant government obviously has no problem with not respecting a Constitutional Court ruling and it would be good for it to explain why it isn't respecting set deadlines, what does it consider to be disputable and what is the problem," Bernardić added.

Responding to reporters Bernardić said that it would "be nice if the opposition had a candidate for the presidential election and that SDP as the strongest opposition party, would have its candidate." Asked whether that might be Zoran Milanović, he said that he first needs to say whether he is willing to run for the presidency after which the party would talk about that and make its decision after the European elections.

More news on the abortion issues in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Parents of Children with SMA Hold Protest in Zagreb

ZAGREB, January 26, 2019 - The Kolibrići association of parents of children with SMA (spinal muscular atrophy) held yet another protest rally on Saturday, outside the government offices in Zagreb, asking that the Spinraza drug be made available to all SMA sufferers and calling for repealing the Croatian Health Insurance Agency's decision (HZZO) not to make the drug available to patients older than 18 and those on life support.

After the rally, the protesters were received for talks by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, his assistant Vili Beroš and representatives of two Zagreb hospitals.

The protest organisers said that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) had approved the use of the drug for spinal muscular atrophy without any restriction by all SMA sufferers, while the HZZO had made a discriminatory decision denying the right to the drug to children on a respirator and SMA sufferers above the age of 18.

They called on the health minister, the government and the HZZO to repeal the decision which they consider to be unconstitutional, noting that they would not give up on their struggle.

Today's protest was the sixth rally held over the past year by parents whose children suffer from SMA and the second one to be held in the capital.

The head of the Kolibrići association, Ana Alapić, said that there are twelve children who suffer from SMA and are on a respirator. There are around 19 adult SMA sufferers, she said, adding that the association did not know their exact number as over the past year and a half that protests had been organised, nobody cared enough to compile a nation-wide register of SMA sufferers. "This makes it clear that there is no awareness that this problem needs a comprehensive and long-term solution," Alapić said.

The protesting parents all said that they would not give up their fight and that the decision not to approve the use of Spinraza by SMA patients above 18 and children on a respirator meant the death sentence for them.

They also called on Minister Kujundžić to provide evidence for his assertion that the drug was ineffective in patients above 18.

Health Minister Kujundžić said that the relevant commission of the Croatian Health Insurance Agency (HZZO) would issue a new opinion on the Spinraza drug in 15 days. "Money was not an issue in the case of 30 other patients and it won't be an issue in the case of these 12 patients, however, the drug cannot be registered by bypassing professional rules," said Kujundžić after the meeting.

"The HZZO Medicines Commission will issue a new opinion in 15 days on what it has found in studies," the minister said, adding that the decision would be made by medical professionals who deal exclusively with spinal muscular atrophy in children and adults. The minister would not speculate as to what the commission would decide.

Alapić said after the talks that she was partially satisfied with the meeting with government officials. "I am partially satisfied but I am aware that we have to wait for the opinion of medical professionals. I believe the opinion will be in our favour," she said.

More news on the medical issues in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Cervical Cancer Incidence Rate Declining in Croatia

ZAGREB, January 20, 2019 - The 12th annual edition of Mimosa Day was held in Zagreb's Cvjetni Trg Square on Saturday with an aim of raising the public awareness of the importance of cervical cancer prevention.

Addressing the event, which was launched by the Croatian Anti-Cancer League, the association's leader Damir Eljuga said that he was glad to present some encouraging figures about a drop in the incidence rate of this disease.

In the past, about 380 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer annually in Croatia, while last year the statistics dropped to 280 new cases.

Croatia is within the European average when it comes to cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates, Eljuga said.

This disease can be prevented by regular gynaecological exams, participants in the campaign said.

In developed countries, the widespread use of cervical screening programs has dramatically reduced rates of cervical cancer.

On Mimosa Day, mimosas are sold in the main squares of Croatian towns and cities to raise funds for the treatment of cervical cancer.

The national cervical and gynaecological cancer prevention day is traditionally commemorated on the third Saturday of January, by a public health action known as Mimosa Day.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Retrained Nurses from Abroad Banned from Working in Croatia

ZAGREB, January 9, 2019 - The Croatian Chamber of Nurses (HKMS) said on Tuesday, following media reports about the buying of nursing certificates in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that it will not issue nursing licenses to applicants who have completed retraining programmes in other countries because it believes that the required level of training for the nursing profession cannot be attained that way.

Retraining programmes are not equal to Croatian programmes for obtaining the qualification of a general care nurse and hence cannot result in the same outcomes of knowledge, skills and competencies. The nursing profession belongs to regulated professions for which minimum education requirements are clearly set out in an EU directive, and learning outcomes must be in line with the European and the Croatian Qualifications Framework, the HKMS said.

"By comparing retraining programmes, we have identified substantial differences in professional qualifications and a considerable shortage of hours of theoretical and clinical instruction," HKMS president Slava Šepec said.

The Croatian education programme does not provide for a retraining programme in the nursing profession and such programmes from other countries are contrary to the Regulated Professions and Recognition of Foreign Professional Qualifications Act and the European Commission's Directive 2005/36.

Only licensed nurses can operate in Croatia, and nursing licenses are issued by the HKMS. The training of general care nurses includes at least 4,600 hours of theoretical and clinical instruction during at least three years of professional training.

More news on the medical issues in Croatia can be found in our Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Seasonal Influenza in Croatia Reaches Climax

The seasonal influenza in Croatia is at its peak, and it is expected that the epidemics of similar intensity will last for weeks. There are reports of complication from this severe seasonal illness, the most common of which is pneumonia, and the first flu death has been recorded, reports Jutarnji List on January 3, 2019.

The first victim is a man about 50 years old, who has been proven to have had the virus.

Vladimir Draženović, a virus expert at the National Influenza Centre of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, says that the epidemics intensity is similar to last season, which has been the strongest in the last twenty years.

“According to the data, just in last week, we have proven 120 cases of influenza, which is twice as much as the previous week. Of all the samples we have analysed, 46 percent were positive for the flu. The ‘peak’ of the influenza epidemics is reached when the share crosses the 50 percent threshold, and this is likely to happen this week,” says Draženović.

Unlike last year, when the B-type virus dominated, this year it is only type A which has been identified. About 90% of the cases include the pandemic H1N1 virus (so-called swine flu), and 10% are of H3N2 subtype.

This is good news for 350,000 people who have been vaccinated because the vaccine does not contain one type B strain, so the protection, in this case, is significantly better.

“The fact that we are approaching the climax of the flu does not mean much because the climax is not something which lasts one day. Last year, it lasted with the same intensity for as many as 13 weeks,” says Draženović.

However, the most significant number of sick cases is expected to be recorded in about ten days, when students will return to schools since the virus is spreading considerably faster indoors.

That is why it is essential to take precautionary measures, such as washing hands and ventilating rooms. Infected persons must remain at home, both to protect their health and to prevent the further spread of the disease.

More health news can be found in our Lifestyle section.

Translated from Jutarnji List (reported by Ivana Krnić).

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Introduction of Helicopter Emergency Medical Service Delayed

Although the health authorities have announced it, the helicopter emergency medical service cannot be introduced this year because the helicopter acquisition takes at least a year, which is the usual delivery deadline for new helicopters. The state plans to buy new emergency helicopters, which is clear from the amount of 34.6 million euro, which includes an investment in the purchase of four helicopters and the training of teams which would use them. The price of a single helicopter is about eight million euros, reports Večernji List on January 2, 2019.

The state plans to buy the helicopters, but the service will be managed by a private company, with three permanent and three seasonal bases. How will this public-private cooperation work and when will Croatia really get a helicopter emergency medical service, these are questions the answers to which should be given by a feasibility study which the Ministry of Health has declared to be a non-public document. It is not known who declared this document to be a secret, but it is understood that the study has been drafted by two consulting companies which received 157,900 kuna from the budget.

What the "secret study" suggests is not known even to the HELP association (Helicopters Assist Physicians), whose president Mladen Tureček believes that the helicopter emergency service in Croatia should work according to the tried and tested model of Germany and Austria.

“It should be a civil service which is not paid from the state budget but is covered from various sources (beneficiaries), including by grants. Such a model does not allow the excessive number of employees. The proposed concept with three permanent and three seasonal bases does not meet the needs of Croatia. The proposed model does not cover enough population nor does it meet the ‘golden hour’ criterion for everyone. Four helicopters are not enough to cover their six-base model or our five-to-eight base proposal,” said Tureček, adding that, if new helicopters are to be acquired, it is impossible to establish the service this year.

The government plans to establish three permanent bases: Zagreb, Krk and Split. However, as Tureček explains, if such a plan is adopted, there will be significant parts of Croatia which will remain out of reach of the helicopter emergency medical service during the so-called golden hour.

“Golden hour" is a one-hour period after the call about an incident has been received. Patients should be transported to a health institution before the hour is over. With the three permanent bases, areas such as Zadar, Gospić, Slavonia and the far south of the country would be left without the service. If the plan is to solve this problem with seasonal bases in Dubrovnik, Slavonski Brod and Karlovac, the question is – what will happen during the period of the year when the seasonal bases are closed?

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Ivana Rimac Lesički).

More news on Croatia’s healthcare system can be found in our Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Reduced VAT on OTC Medicines Lowers Their Prices by 18%-19%

ZAGREB, January 2, 2019 - The enactment of the law lowering the standard Value Added rate of 25% to 5% on non-prescription medicines will pave the way for the reduction of retail prices of OTC medicines by 18-19 percent as of the start of 2019, the Croatian Chamber of Pharmacists (HLJK) has stated.

The Croatian government has recently proposed that all medicines, including prescription and non-prescription drugs, should be taxed by a 5% rate as of 1 January 2019.

This would lead to a marked lowering of prices of non-prescription medicines as of the new year, which means that medicines for influenza and cold, nose drops, painkillers and about 500 kinds of other OTC drugs will be 18% cheaper, HLJK chairwoman Ana Soldo has said.

Prices of painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs are currently between 25 and 40 kuna and will further drop to between 20-30 kuna. Drugs for cold symptoms and nose drops will be 10 kuna cheaper.

The most frequently sold OTC drugs in Croatia are painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs as well as drugs for cold symptoms.

Spending on OTC drugs in Croatia is currently twice as high as it was five years ago. However, Soldo has warned that some of the drug companies have in the meantime already risen prices of their products that the lower VAT would only offset that increase, which means that the prices of such products would not be changed as of the new year.

In this context, the HLJK chamber points out the German Berlin-Chemie as the only one that has increased the prices of its products to such extent that buyers cannot see the effect of the lower VAT on its products in 2019.

Soldo hopes that other producers will not follow the example of that company. She criticises Berlin-Chemie for its ill-considered decision that will neutralise the good effects of the lower VAT rate on OTC drugs.

The Croatian Health Insurance Fund (HZZO) has recently stated that it expects an additional 1.3 billion kuna in revenues in 2019 after the increase of the standard health insurance contribution rate from 15% to 16.5%.

All that should facilitate efforts to reduce the overall debt of kuna 8.2 billion in the public healthcare system.

More news on the healthcare in Croatia can be found in our Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Health Minister: Spinraza to Be Given to Patients if Efficacy is Proven

ZAGREB, December 30, 2018 - Health Minister Milan Kujundžić said on Saturday that all medicines, including Spinraza, were put on the essential medicines list by the Croatian Health Insurance Agency (HZZO) Medicines Commission, stressing that patients aged over 18 and those on a respirator would be given the drug if its efficacy in such cases was proven.

"The main criterion (for putting a drug on the essential medicines list) are indications cited by the company making the drug. As soon as the relevant company reports that the drug should also be given to patients on a respirator and if there is evidence that it is a useful method, the Commission will decide that Spinraza should be given to those patients as well," Kujundžić told the RTL commercial broadcaster when asked when spinal muscular atrophy patients older than 18 or on a respirator would be able to use Spinraza.

More news on the healthcare in Croatia can be found in our Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Split Hospital Receives 10,000th Blood Donation in Ten Years

ZAGREB, December 29, 2018 - The Clinical Hospital Centre in the southern coastal city of Split on Friday received the ten thousandth blood donation in the last ten years. The donor at the Split hospital was Mario Roguljić (27), who has donated his blood for the sixth time.

Mayor Andro Krstulović Opara thanked all the donors for the noble deed of saving human lives, while the head of the municipal Red Cross, Tomislav Gojo, emphasised the importance of raising awareness among young people as potential new blood donors.

With 10,000 doses of blood donated in the last decade, residents of Split have saved or helped over 30,000 people, given that one dose can be used for three patients.

More news on Croatia’s health system can be found in our Lifestyle section.

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