Minister regrets medic protest while EU peers are in town

Latvian Health Minister Guntis Belēvičs on Monday condemned a planned protest of medical workers designed to coincide with the arrival of health ministers from across the European Union for a meeting in Riga.

Speaking on LTV's Rita Panorama news show Monday morning, Belēvičs said ministers of other EU countries cannot help in solving the health issues in each others' states, so the protest was "at the wrong time in the wrong place."

Seemingly he missed the intention of protesters to embarrass the government into action over pay, working conditions and low levels of healthcare funding in general. 

Doctors and nurses should instead concentrate on participating in drafting next year's budget, Belēvičs advised, while warning them that in any case he would be too busy to leave his EU meetings to talk to protesters. 

He did however acknowledge that Latvia's levels of funding for healthcare are "catastrophically low", among the lowest in the EU, but reasserted his belief that protesters were talking about "the right things at the wrong time."

"Structural reforms" of the healthcare system were needed in coming years, the minister said, without specifying precisely what he meant by the phrase, which is among government's leading buzzwords.

The demonstration will take place Monday in front of the National Library, the venue for an informal meeting of the EU health ministers.

Latvia currently spends just 3% of GDP on healthcare, less than half the 7% level recommended by the World Health Organization.

Monday's protest is a first for Latvia's six-month EU Presidency which has so far been characterized by the smooth stage management of all the set-piece events.

Watch the medics' protest on LSM's live stream beginning at noon HERE.

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