Romania has highest Covid-19 mortality rate in European Union as patients are in poorer health, and healthcare system needs improving, top doctor says

Foto: INQUAM/Attila Szabo

Romania has had more Covid-19 deaths than any other country in the European Union in the past month for its population size, double the rate of its neighbor Bulgaria.

Romania’s representative at the World Health Organization, Alexandru Rafila, says a combination of factors have led to the high death rate, including the state of health of people who catch the virus, and dysfunctionalities in Romania’s underfunded health system which is ranked one of the weakest in Europe.  

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control which publishes statistics on coronavirus-related deaths and infections across Europe reported that Romania had 3.1 deaths per 100,000 people from August 18-Sept. 2 followed by its southern neighbor Bulgaria which had 1.6 deaths for the same period.

The agency said about 2.25 million cases of the novel coronavirus had been reported in the EU and the European Economic Area which includes Britain, and about 182,000 deaths since the pandemic started.

Rafila, who is also head of the Matei Bals National Institute for Infectious Diseases’ laboratory told Digi 24 that the overall death rate was high because many Covid-19  patients  already had underlying health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease or obesity.

Rafila said people with pre-existent health conditions tended to develop more serious forms of the virus, with complications “which unfortunately leads to death,” he said.

He also said that Romania’s health system wasn’t as efficient as it could be. More than 42% of heath spending is directed to inpatient care, or hospitals. compared to the EU average of 29%.

“We have the capacity to treat these patients, but not successfully. But we can’t establish the cause at this moment,” he said.

“Maybe it’s because more patients have underlying health conditions or maybe it’s because some health units who don’t manage to treat patients or there are some dysfunctionalities.”

“We have about 85 cases (of coronavirus )per 100,000 inhabitants, while Bulgaria has under 30. This shows it can be done in a country with a development level similar to Romania’s to reduce the burden of the illness and go into an area which is more comfortable for the health system,” he said.

Romania has a population of about 19 million, compared to Bulgaria’s 7 million. Romania is more densely populated than its southern neighbor, another factor which leads to more infections.

Romania spends 5% of its gross domestic product on health compared to the EU average of 9.8%.

“Our health system is under pressure,” Rafila said. “But mortality, ranked by population size is an indicator which should be taken into consideration and I think we can get there with some improvements.”


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