Recent changes to the state budget have cut funds for the health sector to the tune of EUR 16 million, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic at a time, the health service is already under strain.
The new budget, tabled this week, shows that the Ministry of Health and Social Protection will receive 74.7 billion lek instead of the 76.7 billion lek designated in March of this year. This translates into a reduction of some 2 billion lek (EUR 16.5 million) or 2.6%.
Cuts have been applied to all services but particularly Primary Care Services and Public Care Services, two key sectors related to managing the pandemic. Both are currently underfunded.
The primary service budget was cut by 9.6 per cent, with around 851 million ALL or EUR 7 million. The public health budget was cut by 14 per cent with a reduction of EUR 7.3 million.
Secondary care services represented by hospitals were reduced by around 2 million euros, while expenses for planning, administration and management were reduced by 3%.
The cut in health funding comes as the country faces a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, as health experts say the virus will linger, and future sub-variants could be even more aggressive. To cope with the burden of morbidity, public health experts have suggested strengthening capacities in primary care and pandemic surveillance.
Comparative data from the WHO database shows that Albania provides the lowest public funding for primary care. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our country was also ranked among the countries with the highest excess mortality rates.
Albania is also at risk of a staff shortage as hundreds of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals leave the country to seek employment in the EU in countries such as Germany, Malta, and Italy.