Interview with EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis during his official visit to the Czech Republic (14.-15. April).
A lot of people in the Czech Republic fear health risks in connection to migration. Do you think it is a real threat?
The European Commission has been analyzing the situation in Syria, Libya and Lebanon from the very beginning. In Ukraine, too – there are currently 5 cases of polio. We started vaccinating migrants and especially their children. We have introduced temporary patient records. The migrants do not currently pose any risks. I must say I have been surprised that the Czechs are really worried about this, even though you have so few migrants here. In Lithuania the situation is similar. I often say that people are full-time-Europeans in case of structural funds, but only part-time Europeans in case of migration problems.
Do you belive that there could be a European common health policy in the future?
I definitely do not support unification of healthcare in the European Union. That would be a wrong move. Public healthcare systems are very different. Most of them are based on solidarity. However, there is a difference between the United Kingdom, Nordic countries, Germany and the Meditteranean. There are also differences in Central Europe. I can hardly imagine unification. The Paneuropean approach could be used in the area of rare diseases. We need big data and specialized professionals. It does not make sense for every member state to make their own research. I support inovative approach to medicine and usage of big data which is used in the Horizon 2020. T
The European Commission released a report on healthcare in the member states. What recommendations did you give to Minister Svatopluk Němeček?
I told Minister Němeček to support National Contact Points in becoming more active. I also recommended improving the quality of health communication through digitalization. I support e-prescription and patient e-cards. The member states should learn to connect their healthcare systems and make use of their strengths. The overall cooperation is essential. I am sorry to hear „this is Brussels and that is member states“. It is not like that. We all are part of the European system. All decisions in the Council were also adopted by the Czech representatives.
The Cross-border Healthcare Directive is a concrete example of EU cooperation. The cross-boarder cooperation is also connected to medical tourism – it is about using the opportunities offered by neighbouring countries. Are there any plans in EC to support medical tourism in member states?
I have been trying to revive this topic and consulting it with all stakeholders. The reimbursement system must work. We have to create a cooperation network. The main goal is to shorten waiting times. However, the EU citizens know very little about the cross-border cooperation. According to our survey, only 5 percent are conscious of it.
To what extent should the member states regulate the re-export of pharmaceuticals?
The current situation is paradoxical and assymetric. We have a common market but in pharmaceuticals there are separated markets with different reimbursement systems. The result is paralel trade. Each state must analyze the situation and regulate as necessary. The states must also state the reason for this regulation. That did not happen in case of Slovakia, Greece or Bulgaria. We are launching the PRIME project which should simplify the authorization procedure. Another project is called EURIPID which is a pricing information system. We need „solid“ data. The coopration is on a voluntary basis.
What do you think about vaccination?
I support vaccination. Every year, I get vaccinated against flu – I share it on my website, Twitter and Facebook profile. A personal example is very important.
What would you tell the parents who reject to vaccinate their children?
First of all I would tell them that they break the Declaration on Children Rights. Every child has the right to health protection. All countries signed this declaration and shall obey it. We need to fight disinformation such as that vaccination causes autism and everything is governed by international corporations. Especially through social networks, the anti-vaccination movement spreads pseudo-scientific approaches. Thanks to strict vaccination policy we are protected by so called collective imunity. We shall be grateful for this.
The Czech Ministry of Health supports traditional Chinese medicine and foundation of specialized hospital in Hradec Králové. What do you think about the Traditional Chinese Medicine?
In medicine especially, we need scientifically prooved procedures. There are different approaches to Chinese medicine, homeopathy or herbal medicine. For example, in Germany the „Naturmedizin“ is covered by insurance companies, in other countries there is no regulation at all.
Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis
Born 9 August 1951 at Kyusyur,Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, USSR) is a Lithuanian physician (heart surgeon), politician, and co-signatory to the 1990 Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania.
Andriukaitis‘ family was deported to Siberia in June 1941. He, his mother and two older brothers were allowed to return to Lithuania in 1958; his father returned in 1959. After excelling at school, he enrolled at Kaunas Medical Institute, graduating in 1975. In 1976 Andriukaitis started in politics as a member of the underground Social Democrat movement, but continued his studies later taking a degree in history at Vilnius University in 1984.
Dr Andriukaitis was elected to the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania in 1990. He served in the Seimas from 1992 to 2004, and was Deputy Chairman of its Council from 2001 to 2004. He was The Health Minister of the Republic of Lithuania since 2012 December till Jean-Claude Juncker has appointed him to serve as a EU Commissioner in November 2014.