Bulgaria Doctors Keep Up Protests over Health Care FundingHealth | November 2, 2010, Tuesday // 08:55| views
Medics across Bulgaria have vowed to take part in the relay protests, threatening effective strikes if their demands are not met. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency
Doctors in Bulgaria's coastal town of Burgas will take over on Tuesday the one-hour relay protests, which their colleagues in Sliven initiated a day earlier, against the sorry state of the country's hospitals.
Medics across Bulgaria have vowed to take part in the relay protests, threatening effective strikes if their demands are not met. The doctors claim that the government has not delivered on its financial promises. They demand that the hospitals receive all overdue amounts owed to them by the National Health Insurance Fund (NZOK) since the beginning of the year.
Doctors have assured that emergency cases will be accepted and treated despite the strikes.
After years of lumbering reforms, Bulgaria's health care system is reminiscent more of a third world country than an EU member state.
Citing lack of money, earlier this year hospitals across the country suspended planned operations, reduced admission of emergency cases and even switched into a war-time regime, tapping into the reserves, meant to be used in case of natural disasters and wars.
At the same time the European Union is offering BGN 300 M in funds for equipment and repair works at hospitals, but it takes good projects to absorb them. Meanwhile expenses are constantly on the rise and both the state and the patients are forced to dig deeper into their pockets.
The previous Health Minister Anna-Maria Borisova, who gave in to calls for her resignation last month, has failed to make any difference.
What the new Minister Stefan Konstantinov inherited is a huge load of problems - understaffing, supply shortages, braindrain, bribes to doctors and nurses to ensure better treatment, high debts and chronic lack of money.
In recession-battered Bulgaria, the government spends just 4.2% of its GDP on health. All employed and self-employed Bulgarians are obliged to make monthly health insurance contributions of 8% of their income to the Health Insurance Fund, but it has been plagued by corruption and funds siphoning is no exception there. Another factor are meager health insurance contributions that the state pays for the people under its wing.
Europe-wide polls show that the lowest levels of satisfaction with health care are reported in Bulgaria, which even lags behind Albania and Macedonia.
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