Unions announce major protest over healthcare budget

The Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia will hold a major protest calling for "respectable jobs and respectable remuneration for healthy and educated people in Latvia", the confederation's chairman Pēteris Krīgers told the press after a board meeting today.

The rally is set to take place at the Dome Square in Riga on May 1, International Workers' Day.

According to Health Care Workers Union chairman Valdis Keris, statements by PM Māris Kučinskis support the claim that the government plans on cutting funds for healthcare in the next few years.

He told Latvian Radio 4 that the medics' demands are simple: to reintroduce the plan to increase the healthcare budget to 4.3% of the GDP by 2018. Latvia's current healthcare expenditures are 3% of the GDP, which is twice below the EU average.

On Tuesday Kučinskis appeared on Latvian Television, saying that taking to the streets is not a way to solve healthcare problems and he is not about to dole out "careless promises" due to protests.

He called the unions to adopt a joint decision, taking into account that other areas need funding as well.

The unions are unhappy about the long queues to medical exams, the outflow of doctors from the regions of Latvia, the people's inability to pay their medical bills and lack of funding for the industry as a whole.

Kučinskis told the press after a coalition meeting Monday that an extra €35m could be allocated to healthcare reform next year, however there would be no talk about any more funding prior to a thorough review of the healthcare system. He is to meet medics on April 22 to inform them about the reform plan.

While Keris said on Monday that the union might propose dissolving the Latvian parliament if no solution is found.

Healthcare workers staged a protest by the Saeima early November last year, demanding higher wages and more funding for the industry. 

This year Latvia increased healthcare workers' salaries by an average of 7%.

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