ECPC General Assembly – “We live in a Europe of disparities and not in a Europe of rights”
ECPC General Assembly 20-22 June 2014- Francesco de Lorenzo, President of the ECPC, presented some striking figures in cancer care across Europe during his inaugural intervention at the ECPC’s General Assembly “whereas the average expenditure per citizen in Europe is 102 Euro, Romania only spends 20 Euro per inhabitant”.
Although all 28 European countries provide universal access to healthcare, major disparities and differences exist in access to care and treatment within regions, among countries and among socio-economic groups. In this scenario, the “work of the ECPC is crucial and brings added value to unrepresented cancer patients”. In the next year, the activities of the ECPC will be structured around four pillars: advocacy, capacity building, research and partnerships to defend a Europe of rights and not a Europe of disparities”. He also recalled of the importance of the “involvement of the ECPC is some legislative initiatives such as the EU Data protection Regulation that could slow down medical research for cancer patients”.
The ECPC organised its annual General Assembly in Bucharest from 20-22 June 2014. Over 140 delegates from 28 EU and non-EU countries gathered for a three-day meeting around a common objective: making patients’ voice heard.
Mr de Lorenzo was also accompanied by Lynn Faulds Wood, former ECPC President and co-founder of the organization who recalled the principles on which the ECPC was established. “The ECPC is a coalition committed to improving cancer prevention, screening, early diagnosis and best treatment, reducing disparity and inequity across the EU”, she added.
Christian Busoi, former President of the Health Insurance in Romania and recently elected MEP, also presented some of the big differences that exist across Europe. “When we talk about access and quality to treatment we talk about the problem of access to innovative medicines but also about the persistent problems with waiting lists”. “In Romania for example, the list of reimbursed medicines has not been updated since 2009 and the access to radio-therapy is extremely low”, he highlighted.
No EU country can fight cancer alone
Busoi MEP reminded that the “EU has greater powers on health policies under the new Treaty and no country can fight cancer alone”. “The European Parliament in partnership with other institutions can do a lot to fight against cancer in Europe. “I hope and it is my commitment, that the newly elected Parliament, together with the ECPC will set up an inter-group in the EP to drive policy change in cancer policies across Europe. No country can fight alone cancer”, Busoi MEP said.
“A policy dialogue exists between the European Parliament and the European Commission. The candidate Commissioner for Health will need to be ratified by the European Parliament after a “Hearing” in the EP. I will use this Hearing to ask the candidate about his or her vision and plans to respond to the existing and increasing health inequalities in healthcare across Europe”, he confirmed.
A network of solidarity
In the context of the General Assembly, a preview of the work in progress of the movie “The network” – a documentary film on the missing cancer drugs and its smuggling to Romania by film director Claudiu Mitcu, was presented. The documentary, that is expected to be finalized this autumn, shows “how a network of cancer patients originated to respond to the shortage of medicines in Romania”.
Kathi Apostolidis, Vice-President of the ECPC also mentioned the example of the network of volunteer-run health clinics that has emerged in Greece to help ease the burden of access to care through the collection of drugs for those who do not have sufficient means. “The Greek health system is buckling under the strain of massive budget cuts, an expanding client list and worsening public health after the economic crisis and the austerity measures imposed by the Troika to the Greek health system”, she explained.