PRISTINA, KOSOVO – Prind Musa says that medical assistance is unavailable in his village of Podujevo, so he and his children must travel to Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, to visit a doctor and pharmacy.
But even in the capital, many say medical treatment is lacking.
Shehide Koliqi says this is the third time she has had to bring her 3-year-old daughter, Albiona Koliqi, to the pediatric hospital in Pristina because the doctor repeatedly says he does not have the proper tools to treat her.
Kosovo, a territory disputed for generations between Serbs and Alabanians and currently the newest of the countries in the Balkans, faces an uphill, post-conflict struggle to undo the socio-economic impact of decades of neglect, mismanagement and discrimination. The country, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, must take on the challenge of creating a workable health care system, one of the most sensitive and problematic areas of Kosovo, according to a 2009 report from Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, a group of editors and trainers that educate journalists on covering social, political and economic issues in the region.
The segregation following the revocation of Kosovo’s short-lived autonomy in 1989 included the expulsion of hundreds of Albanian doctors because only Serbian health professionals had permission to practice, according to the report. There has been no lack of donations to improve the system since 1999. But according to the UNICEF, the current allocation of budgetary resources focuses on programs like curative care and drug administration programs, while too little supports preventative and primary health care.
Patients who have the resources to seek medical care face long waiting times, outdated technology and doctors who lack advanced education and training, according to the more than 400 interviews with patients and health institutions included in the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network. They noted broken equipment in public clinics and regular encouragement from doctors for patients to receive care in private clinics, which most can’t afford.
These factors, among many others, have affected levels of satisfaction with Kosovo’s health services, which stand at less than 30 percent, according to a June 2008 report by the United Nations Development Program.