Scandal-mired health minister quits

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The government of Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis suffered its first casualty Friday with the resgnation of health minister Guntis Belevics.

Kucinskis broke the news, saying he had accepted Belevics' resignation after indications the minister had misled him about having special treatment for a minor skin complaint, reported LSM's Latvian language service.

Later, in a press conference to officially announce his resignation, a defiant Belevics proudly listed all his achievements during his seven months as health minister and thanked his colleagues at the ministry.

"I apologise to Latvia's patients, to Latvia's medics... and I apologise to you journalists that even yesterday I was not completely clear to you about all the nuances."

"But I want to be clear that I did not jump the lines, I was not a special patient and I did not use state health service facilities," he said.

Belevics had repeatedly insisted he had received treatment at a private clinic and had not used his position to intentionally jump waiting lists to get treatment for a minor skin complaint, as alleged by the Latvijas Avize newspaper earlier this week.

However he did admit that the treatment he had received at a private clinic was heavily subsidized by the state and that he had undergone another procedure in a state clinic - but said his efforts to pay for it were waved away.

Belevics had been implicated in several other controversies involving allegations of conflicts of interest during his time as a minister, but it is the fact he appears to have not been completely open with the  prime minister - a fellow party member of the Greens and Farmers Alliance - and the journalists continued to press him on the matter that sealed his fate.

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