Free healthcare, free medical examination for pregnant women and newborns, free vaccinations for the Roma from Serbia and other neighboring countries, too, if they have health insurance. The young Roma girls from Serbia say that there, too, just like in Macedonia, people who have no citizenship, that is, people who have no documents whatsoever, are facing healthcare problems. The state is trying to be at their disposal through mediators and providing education about timely controls, but not everything is ideal in practice, young girls who are members of civic associations, part of whom work in the Serbian public and private services, explain.
However, our collocutors add that, although they mostly have no problems, they have witnessed verbal discrimination against patients of Roma ethnicity by some physicians and medical staff usually in the smaller places in our northern neighboring country. However, they are satisfied with the mediators’ performance. Furthermore, they add that there are number of affirmative measures for the Roma patients, including healthcare mediators, who are the link between the state institutions and the Roma community in Serbia. In the settlements populated by Roma, it is the mediators who register them, which is of extreme importance for the community, and they link the community with the institutions by scheduling the medical examinations at the medical institutions on the patients’ behalf, enabling easier access to vaccination of the children and helping the registration of the medical cards.
“I Serbia, and I presume in Macedonia, too, healthcare is free for all the citizens. There are affirmative measures regarding the Roma population in this area. The first measure of this kind is the affirmative rulebook on healthcare protection, which contains a provision that stipulates that the Roma who have no place of residence in Serbia and who are mostly displaced Kosovars could obtain healthcare services much more easily and certainly for free, even though they are not Serbian citizens or have no documents. The second affirmative measure is the special mechanism that came into effect back in 2009 and is aimed at improving the Roma healthcare through the appointment of healthcare mediators. Their current number in the Republic of Serbia is 75 and they are employed at the Health Ministry,” female Roma network chairwoman and activist Marina Simeunovic says.
She adds that their status is far from ideal, but, as a civil activist, they are now at the stage of offering support to the healthcare mediators in their “fight” to improve their status.
Kragujevac resident Tanja Djordjevic, who is working as a pedagogical assistant in a primary school, explains that the female healthcare mediators function well in that town and in the country in general. She underlines that all those who possess a medical card are entitled to free healthcare, including pregnant women and women who have recently given birth.
“I have no specific information about the whole country, but, in Kragujevac, about 85% of the local Roma have medical cards, while 5% are people who are legally invisible. About 85% of the Roma have chosen their family doctor. I have no information of anyone in my vicinity facing discrimination when it comes to healthcare protection,” Djordjevic says.
She adds that free healthcare protection guarantees rights to people. Those who have no medical card, however, pay for the healthcare services.
Tamara Askovic from Krushevac says that she personally has never had any problems regarding healthcare protection. However, as an employee of a Roma civic association, she says that her community is experiencing problems with certain doctors and medical personnel.
“They are mostly discriminated against in the form of being the last to be examined. Once a mother was merely asking for a thermometer, but she was attacked with the following words: ‘You give birth to children, but have no money to buy even a thermometer’,” Askovic says.
She stresses that, despite the mediator’s successful work, the percentage of female Roma who regularly see a gynecologist is still small. It is good that the Serbian doctors regularly visit the Roma community in Serbia to motivate and educate it about the great importance of seeing a gynecologist.
The civil activists say that, in the future, they will continue taking steps to provide further healthcare education to the Roma.