OECD urges Latvia to treat healthcare seriously

Latvia should remove persistent barriers to accessing high quality care, according to an OECD report published Wednesday.

The report puts Latvia's average life expectancy at 73.9 years, which is more than 6 years shorter than the OECD. Smoking and harmful alcohol consumption are becoming more common, rather than being tackled as in a number of OECD countries, notes the report.

The report also notes that public investment in health care is low, at just 3.4% of GDP in 2015. Substantial out-of-pocket spending brings total national expenditure on health to 5.6% of GDP, well below the OECD average of 9%.

Furthermore, according to the report, nearly 1 in 7 Latvians (or, worse, 1 in 3 of those with low incomes) say they're doing without health care because of the cost, distance or waiting times, compared to 3% across the OECD.

However the report also notes positive aspects. "Strong commitment by Latvian authorities to improve the performance of the health system is encouraging. Concerted efforts have been made to improve access to care, including incentives to open primary care practices in rural areas, provision of a second nurse in primary care, and free hotel-accommodation to help poorer patients access specialist care," says the report.

"Quality initiatives are also underway, with the introduction of a pay-for-performance scheme in primary care, incentives for early cancer detection, and the imminent launch of electronic health records. Efforts to reduce hospital use and focus on outpatient care and the introduction of a centralised emergency triage system should also promote better value-for-money," the report says.

The report also produces recommendations on improving health care.

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