Aug. 2014—Whether waiting in a frantic emergency room after an accident, or at a routine medical check-up, patients everywhere look for relief, understanding and timely assistance from their doctors. Serbia is no different. However, its health care system suffers from underfunding, poor management and a high public perception of corruption.
Despite the views on corruption, one thing seems clear—when a loved one’s health is at stake, most people will do whatever it takes, even if a few lines are blurred in the process. Patients and family members may offer bribes for preferential treatment, or vice versa—doctors and medical staff may solicit bribes to schedule specific exams or surgeries.
Non-transparent practices by hospitals and poor understanding of hospital management have led to negative connotations of the medical profession. To reverse this, it is crucial to equip both citizens and medical staff with the knowledge and means to make informed decisions about medical care, promote integrity, and understand how corruption erodes the quality of health care.
Serbia on the Move (SoM) is an organization dedicated to fighting corruption in health care and improving the quality of service for patients. SoM’s projects include: “I’m not on the take, I work for a salary” (700 medical doctors wore a badge with that statement and signed a personal statement of incorruptibility); “Young journalists in action: Voice for Health!” (develops investigative journalism stories that inform citizens on corruption in health care through new media); and the Kakav je doktor (“What’s Your Doctor Like?”) portal for citizens to post comments on the quality of service provided by specific doctors.
SoM’s SMS service for reporting corruption in the health care sector, supported by the Ministry of Health and the United Nations Development Program, received as many as 1,000 reports in the past year that resulted in 15 filed criminal charges.
With support from USAID’s Judicial Reform and Government Accountability project, SoM expanded its efforts and launched the Zero Tolerance for Corruption project in August 2013 in five medical institutions in Sremska Kamenica, Vršac, Kraljevo, Zemun and Vrnjačka Banja. Innovative anti-corruption workshops accredited by the Continuous Medical Education program of the Health Council of Serbia educated 452 doctors from the participating hospitals as well as would-be trainers between December 2013 and March 2014.
“As many doctors and health care institutions as possible should be involved in this. A rare chance to hear the details about this very important topic,” said a medical doctor working in the General Hospital in Vrsac after attending one of the workshops.
More than 800 members of the public in five cities received training on corruption in health care and how to fight it. Community organizing led to citizen participation on the boards of five hospitals.
“Turning initial resistance into positive energy and drive for change was the most challenging aspect of the workshops. Opening a dialogue with the medical staff is important for fighting corruption bottom to top,” said Predrag Stojičić, project coordinator.
Involving both citizens and medical professionals in anti-corruption trainings, USAID helps build a health care system with integrity and transparency. Launched in 2011, the Judicial Reform and Government Accountability project is scheduled to end in May 2016.
Last updated: September 12, 2014