Europe's first cross-border medical centre has opened on the Austrian-Czech Republic border. Where once the iron curtain prevailed, doctors and interpreters now care for patients from both countries.
"The population in the Czech Republic border region is actually short of general practitioners at the moment," explains GP Christian Schäfer.
Patient Jana Motlová will now only have to walk a few metres across the border from the Czech Republic to see a specialist in Austria. Previously the 32-year-old had to drive an hour to the nearest Czech city.
"We don't have a gynaecologist either,” she says. “We had one before but unfortunately not anymore. There is not even a dentist."
For decades, the Austrian town of Gmünd and the Czech Republic town of Ceske Velenice were separated by barbed wire.
Now, the new medical centre named "Healthacross" aims to medically revitalise the infrastructure in the region, with about 40 doctors and health care providers under one roof.
At the grand opening, the Czech Republic health minister, Adam Vojtěch, remarked that health has no borders.
"I think this might be a great example also for other countries in Europe,” he said. We live in the European Union so it's a huge advantage that we have no borders - no physical borders."
"We have worked on this health region project for a very long time, 15 years,” said the Governor of Lower Austria, Johanna Mikl-Leitner. “This was only possible because we have been financially supported by the European Union through various regional funding programs."
Thanks to EU subsidies, more than 9,000 Czechs have also received treatment in the nearest Austrian hospital, both as inpatients and outpatients. Currently, these services still have to be individually approved by the respective national health insurance company. This hurdle will be removed by the beginning of next year.
"Of course the prices for health care are different in the Czech Republic and in Austria so we need to find out how to solve this problem of reimbursement," says Vojtěch.
Austria has meanwhile initiated further cross-border health care cooperation with Slovakia and Hungary. The problem in rural areas is often the shortage of medical doctors. The Czech and Austrian population now hopes that this will change with the Healthacross centre.