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Rural Areas Healthcare in Balkans

Tue, 09/01/2015 - 12:49 By Sanja Stamenkovic, Jefferson Institute

Rural medicine is an interdisciplinary field of health care in rural areas. It incorporates a number of fields such as sociology, midwifery, nursing and economics.

Health care and need of the rural population differs from urban in many ways. Rural residents are usually pooper than the urban, and more likely to live under the poverty level line. This directly affects their lifestyle. Also, rural population usually consists of fewer working-age population. The health care needs of the children and the elderly differ significantly from those of the working age population. 

According to the National Statistical Institute of Bulgaria and Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, number of people per one physician in 2013 range from 192 to 515. The lowest numbers of people per physician are in the regions of the major cities' regions - South Backa (Novi Sad) - 312, Beograd (Beograd) - 273, Nisava (Nis) - 239, Sofia town (Sofia) - 209, Plovdiv (Plovdiv) - 220 and Varna (Varna) - 216. 

The largest number of residents per physician is recorded in rural regions of Serbia. Although the numbers suggest lack of proper health care in rural areas, there is another explanation - a medical practitioner in the rural area is often trained to be more than just a general practitioner.

Due to the lack of the large health establishments, such as hospitals, nursing homes, emergency centers, medical care centers and pharmacies, rural health care provider is often capable for the multidisciplinary medical approach. Rural MD often practices without nurse, modern equipment and laboratories. If not capable of closing the whole circle - from diagnostic to treatment, rural physician refers the patient to the nearest urban region hospital. 

The lack of the health care personnel in the region is noticeable and the waiting lists for some medical procedures are months-long, but the problem doesn't seem to be limited to the rural regions of Serbia and Bulgaria. While the vast bulk of unemployed young doctors and nurses are migrating to EU in search of a job, a long due reform of the health care system in the Balkans seems to be more and more inevitable. 

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