Corruption reducing access to healthcare throughout the world

By agency reporter
March 27, 2019

Corruption in healthcare service delivery is significantly undermining global efforts to achieve universal health coverage, according to a new report by Transparency International Health Initiative.

The Ignored Pandemic finds that corruption has a devastating impact on health systems, is responsible for the deaths of around 140,000 children per year and holds back the fight against some of the world’s deadliest diseases. While the World Health Organisation estimates that an extra $370 billion per year would be enough to give everyone on the planet access to healthcare, experts warn that over $500 billion in health resources are lost annually to corruption.

The report documents how widespread bribe-taking, theft of medical supplies, absenteeism and other abuses prevent patients from getting the care they need, fuel antimicrobial resistance, and contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Rachel Cooper, Director of Transparency International Health Initiative, said: “Access to healthcare is a basic human right and it’s frustrating that whilst there is a real consensus around achieving it, not enough is being done to stamp out the corruption that is preventing millions from receiving vital treatment and care.”

“Ad-hoc and piecemeal attempts to tackle corruption have been ineffective. If we are serious about achieving universal access to healthcare, health systems must be designed to minimise incentives and opportunities for corruption in the first place. Whilst there are no simple playbooks, no easy wins and no magic bullets, the task is not impossible. Business as usual is no longer an option.”

“Yet again we see how corruption is a life and death issue. All over the world people are dying from a lack of access to medical care. Mothers are unable to give birth in safety and children are not making it to adulthood. We owe it to them to treat the one pandemic currently being ignored – corruption.” 

The study finds that not enough is being done by policy makers to tackle corruption, and that the limited efforts made to date have been too piecemeal to be effective. Stronger oversight mechanisms and greater accountability for health systems are required. Recommendations include:

  • Fund research into corruption in healthcare to address the large gaps in evidence
  • Redesign health systems to minimise incentives and opportunities for corruption
  • Prioritise curbing the most damaging forms of corruption

* Read The Ignored Pandemic here

* Transparency International UK


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