Health Minister: hospital reform unlikely to be budget-friendly

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The revision of hospital services is unlikely to bring savings in budget, said Ilze Viņkele, Minister for Health, July 20, to Latvian Radio.

The Ministry of Health will start negotiations with several regional hospitals this week on the provision of health services in the future, or on the levels of services they provide. The Ministry, in evaluating the five-level system in force, concluded that the lower-level medical treatment facilities did not actually provide individual health services intended.

It will therefore be discussed with the authorities and municipalities about changing the profile of these facilities.

"We will certainly pay attention to the indicator that describes hospital activity. If activity is very low, we will look at discontinuing it. Similarly, we will certainly discuss the number of births in hospitals. Because it is clear that if the number of hospitals in the vicinity is very small, there is some concern about the quality of this service," said Daina Mūrmane-Umbraško, deputy State Secretary at the Ministry of Health.

Health Minister Ilze Viņķele said that the changes will not be budget-friendly because money will have to be spent on strengthening services and transporting patients. "We will agree with the hospitals that there will be no more 24-hour presence of specialists in some places, because there is no demand. Then, of course, we are increasing or strengthening the range of outpatient services. Plus,a new position will be for transporting patients to and from a regional hospital where services are provided. Consequently, savings in the budget are unlikely," Viņķele said.

There is currently a five-level hospital system in Latvia. The highest level is the fifth – it includes university hospitals in Riga, which are able to provide complex medical services, as well as specialized medical institutions.

Experts have pointed out that for years, hospitals have concealed their real capacity to provide certain health services. Also reviewing the data, the Ministry of Health did not rule out in advance that the level set in some hospitals could be lowered.

Health Ministry intends to reform hospital levels promised by September. It is intended to opt out of individual day-to-day healthcare services in regions where there is a shortage of or no demand for the specialists concerned. The money saved could be channeled to medical salaries.

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