The National Roma Centrum promotes healthcare as a basic human right


Emited on radio Bravo


“From increased voice to the improved health care access” is a project of the National Roma Centrum, which is being realized in Kumanovo, Kocani, Stip, Kriva Palanka and Bitola. The project is aimed towards women with financial difficulties and who are unable to pay for the antenatal healthcare services. It also promotes an equal approach to the services for reproductive health for Roma women. The coordinator of the project is Sebihana Skenderovska, who is a coordinator of the health program at the NRC.

– The Roma women and the socially vulnerable citizens don’t have an equal approach to antenatal services. 50% of them give birth without knowing their blood type. They mostly go to only three check-ups, and according to the protocols the first time mothers should have ten, and the women who had already given birth should have seven. Each pregnant woman should have ten antenatal check-ups at their personal gynecologist. Regarding this, we developed a legal analysis with a financial estimation and we realized that an average four-member family receives a social aid of 2400 MKD per month, and the expenses for participation for the laboratory tests are 350 MKD. Therefore, we advocate in the government institutions to take this responsibility and cover the expenses, said Sebihana Skenderovska, coordinator of the project “From increased voice to the improved health care access”, for Radio Bravo.

The project “From increased voice to the improved health care access” has a general aim to promote an equal access to the healthcare protection, especially during the antenatal period of women with financial difficulties, with a special focus on Roma women. Through its activities, the National Roma Centrum advocates for implementation of the Macedonian Law for Healthcare protection, that guarantees healthcare services for all women. At the same time they advocate at the healthcare institutions in the Republic of Macedonia for creating policies which would ensure an equal access to healthcare services, such as antenatal protection, for all women in their reproductive period.
Donor: Foundation Open Society Macedonia
Duration of the project: 20. 12. 2012 – 20. 12. 2013

In 2011, the National Roma Centrum conducted a qualitative field research with Roma women in ten focus groups in Kumanovo, Kriva Palanka, Kocani, Stip and Bitola. 25 interviews were made with representatives from health institutions from all levels of healthcare in the Republic of Macedonia. In this respect we have documented more barriers that prevent Roma women, as socio-economically most vulnerable citizens, to have access to healthcare services in their reproductive period, especially to antenatal care. Besides the unequal treatment by health workers and lack of information of the women (in reproductive age) aged 15 – 49 regarding their rights to a healthcare, the economic difficulties have been identified as one of the most significant barriers. Because of these reasons, the women do not exercise their right to attend regular antenatal checks. The Health Care Law of the Republic of Macedonia provides antenatal and postpartum services for all women, and the practice shows that the minimum amount that pregnant women should pay, according to the price list of the Health Insurance Fund, is very high. The women with financial problems or social welfare recipients are unable to cover the participation. The secondary problem that we identified during our research is the unawareness among the women regarding the cost of the services. The Health Insurance Fund does not specify exactly which healthcare services are part of the free healthcare package during the antenatal and postpartum period. The result of this occurrence is that women pay different prices for all the medical tests and examinations which are mandatory during pregnancy, which is an additional problem for the economically vulnerable women. And while giving birth is free of charge in public hospitals, in case of complications after childbirth, the women which remain in the hospital for more than 24 hours must pay as a regular hospital stay.
Goal of the project:

Main goal: Advocating in the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Health Insurance Fund to lift the participation for antenatal services for economically vulnerable pregnant mothers (recipients of social welfare, aged 15 – 49).

Specific goals:

– Advocating for a package of free antenatal and postpartum services for women in difficult economic situation;
– A public debate, initiated by the National Roma Centrum, about the weaknesses of the current legal framework for health and social protection, and to suggest their revision;
– Generating international pressure on the Macedonian healthcare authorities in order to provide an equal access to healthcare protection for Roma women.


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