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Be ill only if you have time for that (If you are Polish)

As during the last lecture the issue of the role of waiting time to medical care was touched, and as I have some personal experience with this topic, I decided to describe how the situation of patients looks like in my country in terms of waiting for medical treatment.

First, I want to define what I mean by waiting time – it is namely the time which goes by from symptom appearance to beginning of the treatment. So what I did was asking my family members about their experience in this field – the conclusion was: It is bad. Then I wanted to check what Google would ‘say’ about that. I put the phrase “Health care, waiting time, Poland” and the first article I saw was “Polish health care system is one of the worst in Europe” – so the second conclusion is: it is really bad.

Here are some examples of waiting time in particular health units in Poland:

Medical Practice Health care unit Waiting time (in days)
Ophthalmology Euromed in Zduńska Wola 2880
Endocrinology University Clinic in Gdańsk 922
Cardiology Railway Hospital in Wałbrzych 730
Ophthalmology Ophthalmology Centre in Wrocław 352

How does the Polish Ministry of Health want to deal with this problem? The latest idea was to introduce additional insurance, which would enable wealthy citizens to avoid the lines (but it would not mean that they would be treated in different places than “normal” citizens). But then the poorer part of society would have to wait even longer for medical treatment, which seems to be unfair. Apart from that, the majority of wealthier patients in Poland use the private health care, therefore this solution seems to be pointless because neither would it improve the situation of richer nor poorer people. Personally, I would rather improve the communication between particular health care units and the staff working there. For example in the hospital in the city which I am from, the waiting lists were prepared by few different people and the lack of communication between them led to the situations, in which one person was on many waiting lists making unnecessary chaos and delaying  thereby their own treatment. What is more, the more shrewd people use this fact and try to enroll for a lot of lines, thinking that it will make them wait shorter, however, it does not work. Just one month ago the IT system was introduced there and hopefully it will improve the present communication and organization. In 2010 there were 2.2 physicians and 5.3 nurses per 1000 Polish population, while the OECD overage amounted as follows: 3.1 and 8.7. The situation is similar in terms of medical equipment: for example the number of MRI scanners stood for 4.7 per million Polish citizens, well below the OECD overage of 12.5 scanners. However, in my opinion the biggest problem of polish health care is not the distinct lack of staff and medical equipment but rather the poor organization.

To compare: In Sweden the longest possible waiting time amounts to 125 days, but only in theory, because after having asked my Swedish friends it appeared that in practice waiting more than one month for a medical treatment is treated as a scandal. They should definitely visit my country.J

As a social response to problems and absurd caused by Polish Health Care there was established the Watch Health Care Foundation, which is in my opinion a very interesting initiative that collects and presents reliable data regarding health care services and health procedures to which access is aggravated. Not only the patients, but also service providers, decision-makers and regulatory authorities receive free of charge access to information presented in the form of rankings. Moreover, the website enables users to report cases of limited access to Health Care as well as solutions to those  problems. This platform has been not very known yet, but I really hope it will develop in close future.


  1. National Health Fund’s internet page,
  2. Nie zapłacisz, to tyle poczekasz (If you do not pay, you have to wait), 07.03.2011,
  4. OECD Health Data 2012: How Does Poland Compare, June 2012,

Izabela Tomasiewicz


Author: studentnovasbe

Master student in Nova Sbe

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