By Antigoni Papadopoulou - 28th March 2013
There are many gaps and barriers across EU member states when addressing heart attack patients’ access to adequate care
The EU must coordinate its activities and work to improve access to life saving therapy for heart attack patients, writes Antigoni Papadopoulou.
It was a great pleasure for me to host a discussion on ‘Improving access to life-saving therapy for acute heart attack patients’ on 24 January at the European parliament, in collaboration with the European Critical Care Foundation and the ‘stent for life’ initiative. The event brought together EU policymakers, cardiologists, medical researchers, industry partners, patients and other concerned stakeholders who exchanged views on recent research findings, best practice, and ways to overcome obstacles to improve access to life saving therapy for patients suffering acute heart attack.
There are many gaps and barriers across EU member states when addressing heart attack patients’ access to adequate care. We are all aware of cases of people losing their lives because of gaps in emergency transport systems, gaps in emergency response times or inadequate infrastructure to ensure reliable intervention therapies without delay. A personal incident of a sudden death within my family has made me more aware and sensitive to how important it is to act immediately and to rely on expert intensive treatment to save lives. The victim of the incident was my husband who suffered cardiovascular disease (CVD) problems. He has fortunately survived from the sudden death episode, thanks to an immediate resuscitation intervention, prompt arrival of the ambulance and immediate transfer to the intensive care unit. During the following years, we went from one hospital to another for various operations, met doctors in several countries, and learnt about different health systems.
Access to safe and quality treatment varies widely among member states and regions and areas of the EU, despite the increasing uptake of technology and the impact of eHealth. What is more surprising is that these inequalities are not solely related to national economic variables. They may be caused by differences in the organisation of the healthcare systems, such as emergency transport systems or hospital networks. As a member of parliament’s women’s rights and gender equality committee, and having discussed the matter with others, I believe that gender disparities also exist in the access to best treatment for heart attacks because of under-diagnosis for women and, consequently, under-treatment.
I am aware that chronic diseases constitute the largest health threat to the EU population, with CVD identified as the number one killer in Europe, killing more people than all cancers together and having an economic impact on health systems exceeding €110bn annually, according to the European commission’s data. There is a pressing need for more effective therapies, taking these into consideration as well as the expected rise of CVD because of the ageing EU population. During the debate, we listened to scientific evidence, shared experiences and ideas and collected views on ways to act. I strongly feel that we need to coordinate actions and work together in order to improve access to life saving therapy for heart attack patients.
As an MEP, I am strongly committed to working towards increasing awareness on the issue and will help in any way possible to overcome barriers and imbalances, thus saving lives. I would be very pleased if other MEPs, patients and civil organisations would like to join in and exchange ideas. During the 2013 European year of citizens, we must all act together to make Europe a better and safer place to live. Together we can achieve more.
Antigoni Papadopoulou is rapporteur for parliament's civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee on the 2013 European year of citizens