Medics' union trusts PM to deliver health funds

Health care and social workers’ union (LVSADA) chairman Valdis Keris called on the government to allocate a minimum guaranteed percentage of the GNP to the health care sector. Until there is a guarantee of supplemental state funding for health care, the functioning of a working group to run the Health Ministry can be considered "just an imitation of activity rather than a true effort," says the union boss.

“It should be similar to how we fund education, according to average EU indicators, in proportion to GNP. If now the defense sector will get this kind of reasonable financing according to international practice, then I must ask, if education and defense have earned such treatment, why isn’t it shown to health care? Why is a person’s health and life, the human right to this, still ignored in Latvia?” he asked.

In an interview with Latvian Radio (LR) Tuesday following the union’s extraordinary board meeting, Keris recalled Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma had promised sector reps that an additional €5.3m would be transferred to the state health budget this year.

Keris said this has allowed the LVSADA to postpone a brewing no-confidence call for Straujuma to step down. In the wake of Ingrida Circene’s resignation as Health Minister this month, and the turning down of offers to take her place by candidates proposed thereafter, Straujuma is heading the ministry herself with the help of a specially-recruited working group led by former Welfare Minister and current Saeima member Ilze Viņķele.

“If she keeps her promise to sign over the remaining part of the supplemental funding over in the next two months, there’s no reason to consider expressing a no-confidence motion,” said Keris.

The LVSADA union chief said that Health Ministry representatives were already scheduling talks on the principles by which the supplemental funding will be allocated.

Previous grumblings almost came to a head at summer’s start, when a €9.9m earmark promised by Straujuma in fact amounted to just €4.6m actually transfered in July. The premier was quick to point out that the rest of the monies were still in the process of procurement by August, and the LVSADA is keen on holding her to her word.

Straujuma told a press conference Tuesday that the working group will focus on two issues –  stability of financing and accessibility of out-patient services and compensated medicines. She said she expects proposals from the group by September 10 so that the government can look them over on September 23, when it is scheduled to begin work on next year’s budget.

Straujuma explained that the group would have only five or six representatives, despite various sector organizations expressing a desire to participate. LVSADA boss Keris said his organization had not been approached to appoint someone to the task force and was not maneuvering for such a position.

On her part, Viņķele told LR that the working group would draft specific proposals for the 2015 state budget to reduce copayments for compensated medicines and improve patients’ accessibility to specialists. According to current statistics, 50% of patients are paying significant prices out-of-pocket.

The advisory group will also develop a sustainable financing model to ensure a rise in funding, clear rules of the game and an ordered system, also for private health insurers, says Viņķele.

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