Health Service Crisis: The Headbutting Continues
Attempts by the government and health minister Ivan Uhliarik to resuscitate talks with doctors’ trade union LOZ have failed and now the government is making tactical plans to deal with the impending crisis in hospitals
Following a last round of talks, acting PM Iveta Radicova said on Saturday that she would not be holding further talks with the trade union, referring to how the government had done all it could to resolve the dispute.
Last week President Ivan Gasparovic said he would call a state of emergency if necessary, as this would force doctors to work whether they liked it or not. This is a last resort solution, though, and one which does not have widespread support.
In the hope that some of the 2,300 or so doctors will retract their notices as part of a mass resignation (by Wednesday 30 November), health minister Ivan Uhliarik was given the order by the PM yesterday to push through a speedy two-phase EUR 300 hike in salaries for doctors who show up for work on 1 December. An addendum to their employment contracts has been prepared and will be distributed today.
If enough doctors decide to accept the salary hike and the other conditions of the final Memorandum put forward by the government, the Ministry of Health will implement crisis measures in affected hospitals and pull in extra doctors from the military and abroad to fill the gap.
This would mean the closure and merger of some wards, setting up special patient hotlines and speeding of the applications of doctors from abroad wanting to work here, for instance. The government hopes the health service will be able to manage without the departing doctors, if around 20% of them decide to do a U-turn on their notices.
A state of emergency would force all doctors to work, even if their notice period has expired. If they refuse to work, they will be fined EUR 330, and the Ministry would also inspect phantom cases of sick-leave. LOZ has not yet stated what it, or rather doctors, would do if a state of emergency were declared.
If the doctors hold strong and the scope of healthcare is insufficient, a state of emergency might be the only way out of the stalemate with doctors union LOZ. In a passionate open letter to all doctors today, LOZ chairman Marian Kollar is calling on doctors not to “sell out for EUR 300”, inciting them to be strong and stand united as “victory is near”.