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Ministry mulls takeover of Latvian regional hospitals

The Ministry of Health (VM) has pledged this year to assess the usefulness of becoming a shareholder in regional health institutions. A couple of years ago it saved the “Ludza Medical Center” from debts, Latvian Television reported January 14.

The four-story-high “Ludza Medical Center” building is a relatively new structure, completed only in 2008. It was built as an emergency hospital but only worked in that capacity for a couple of months. Construction was supported as a guarantor by the state, although the health authority was then owned by the municipality. When the debt had not yet been returned 10 years later, the State took control of the capital of that institution. Currently, “Ludza Medical Center” is working with profit, but the potential of the large, modern building has remained untapped.

“[Like a] museum. No doctors. No funding. If a person buys expensive property, then they try to use it. This is where the state returned the loan to the “Ziemeļu  Bank” and does not actually use it,” said Juris Atstupens, Board Member of LLC “Ludza Medical Center”.

There are a total of three equipped operation rooms here but only one or two surgeries take place per week. The institution has been punished in the past if, for example, blood tests were run because, as a first-level hospital, only treatment and no investigation are allowed. The necessary equipment for blood tests is there. VM said it will assess this year whether it is worth owning this facility.

“This is not a regional hospital, so it needs to be understood from a management point of view how effective and what impact the state has to participate in a care hospital,” VM Deputy Secretary of State Boriss Knigins told LTV.

The Ministry stressed that changes in the network of hospitals are dictated by demographics. The head of the “Ludza Medical Center”, who is himself a surgeon and a deputy in the municipality, also said that if the “Ludza Medical Center” was in the center of Rīga, there would be more activity.

The Ministry also continues to study the effectiveness of the state's participation in the holding of the capital of Daugavpils Regional Hospital. Delayed wages for employees in December were paid out in January, but debts remain. Four million euros would be needed, said the hospital's management, who are waiting to see if the municipality will agree that the state take over the capital.

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