President hints at Health Ministry changes

Take note – story published 9 years ago

President Andris Berzins called the current situation at the Ministry of Health „unacceptable”, as Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma has assumed the duties of ailing Health Minister Ingrida Circene (Unity).  He indicated that there would soon be changes in leadership in the health-care sector. 

The President and Prime Minister met Wednesday to discuss the situation in the health-care sector during the protracted absence of Circene since undergoing and continuing to recover from surgery over a month ago.  Berzins was assured that a resolution to the problems is pending, however, and demanded no specific action yet on Straujuma’s part. The Prime Minister also acknowledged in an interview to Latvian Public Radio Wednesday morning that Circene’s communication with the health-care community has „not been at the highest of levels”.

On Tuesday the Union of Health-care and Social Workers passed an emergency no-confidence resolution demanding Circene’s resignation due to continued deterioration of conditions in the sector since 2011. During this time state investments in health-care have fallen from 3.5% to just 3% of the GNP, contrary to government promises to raise the sector’s budgetary allocations to 4.5% by 2014. The Union however overwhelmingly rejected passing a similar resolution addressed to Prime Minister Straujuma herself.

On her part, at a meeting with the medical workers’ union representatives several weeks ago, Straujuma had vowed to prioritize the sector and procure additional budget funds for the health-care system. Of the 40 million additional euros promised to the sector in next year’s budget, however, only 436 thousand euros were approved at Tuesday’s Cabinet session. Another meeting between the Prime Minister and the Union of Health-care and Social Workers is scheduled to be held this Friday to continue discussions regarding the urgent needs of the sector.

Health Minister Circene also released a statement to the press today rejecting the call for her to step down in favor of a new health minister during the run-up to parliamentary elections this fall. In her statement she recalls frequently raising the issue at Cabinet meetings regarding the urgent need for reforms in such areas as hospital fees, patient co-pays and extra resources for compensating medicine purchases. “All of my work as Minister of Health thus far has been for the public good,” she insisted in her press release.

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