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Wednesday 18.09.2019 | Name days: Liesma, Elita, Alita

Social partners unhappy with EUR 45 million set aside for doctors' wages

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Social partners are entirely unhappy with the option discussed by Latvia’s ruling coalition on diverting EUR 45 million instead of the previously promised EUR 120 million for the increase of wages of healthcare workers, journalists were told by members of National Trilateral Cooperation Council’s Healthcare Industry sub-committee after the meeting on 4 September.

Latvia’s Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele mentioned after the meeting that the coalition had previously offered two budget projects, one of which was based on fiscal space worth approximately EUR 150 million. This budget project promised diverting EUR 25 million to independent institutions and public media, and EUR 127 million to wages of healthcare workers and teachers, said the minister, who also supported this project. Unfortunately, this project did not receive support from the rest of the parties forming the coalition.

The minister added that the other budget project, which is currently being viewed by the coalition, provides for dividing funding of EUR 150 million among all ministries. This means only EUR 45 million will be available for healthcare workers’ wages, which is less than half of the funding amount previously promised by the government.

Viņķele informed the government’s social partners who supported Healthcare Ministry’s priorities of the topical discussions and said she is committed to make it «loud and clear» to the government and the coalition that they are bound by their own previously made decisions in regards to funding of the country’s healthcare. Last year’s supported amendments to the Healthcare Financing Law provide for making sure the country’s healthcare budget is not below 4% of GDP in 2020 and that an additional amount of EUR 120 million is allocated from the state budget to help increase healthcare workers’ wages.

When asked if the ministry plans to look for additional funding to afford increasing wages from reserves, the minister said this is not possible.

«Financing is not a treasure at sea you can just stumble upon. For a long time there has been a shortage of funding for healthcare – it is not possible to ensure full accessibility of services. We cannot even afford paying private and public service providers the self-cost for their services. Where should we look for the money?» the minister rhetorically asks.

Social partners, meanwhile, are convinced that it is possible to find the missing EUR 120 million to afford increasing wages next year.

Valdis Keris, chairman of the Latvian Trade Union of Health and Social Care Employees (LVSADA), told journalists that the solution with EUR 45 million for healthcare workers’ wages is unacceptable.

«In a country ruled by law it is first and foremost necessary to provide guarantees covered by the law, then discuss other positions,» said Keris.

«This was the decision made by the sub-committee today – firstly supporting priorities submitted by Healthcare Ministry and the necessary funding in accordance with requirements of the Law on Healthcare Financing. Secondly, asking the government to stick to what is written in their government declaration and action plan when composing the budget,» he stressed.

Keris added that Latvia’s economy is growing, especially outlining that the 2020 budget will be the biggest one in Latvia’s history. Keris admits that the total available funding amount remains unchanged, but its division for different priorities changes based on compliance with the law. «We invite the government to follow the rule of law and recommendations of international cooperation partners when composing the budget,» said the union’s head.

According to him, social partners expect the prime minister to call a meeting of the National Council for Trilateral Cooperation soon as was promised during the last meeting of this council. Keris especially mentioned that social partners plan to report the decision made by the Healthcare Sub-committee. All sides involved in discussions are invited to act in accordance with their competence in next year’s budget talks.

Jevgēņijs Kalējs, chief of Latvia’s Hospital Association, also voiced shock over this situation, noting that patients will suffer the most because of it.

«We have already outlined the weak points that will surface if requirements of the law are not met. For example, we expect the situation to worsen in Vidzeme, especially when it comes to mammography and examinations of women,» said Kalējs.

Māris Rēvalds, head of Healthcare Employers Association (VADDA), says there is no civilized country in the world in which funding for healthcare is below 12% of each respective government’s expenditures. Latvia, on the other hand, has never come even close to this level, even this year’s funding level will be only 10%. Rēvalds believes budget proportions in Latvia have never been particularly positive, which needs changing.

Viņķele had previously admitted that healthcare workers’ wages next year are unlikely to reach the level (20%) promised in the Law on Healthcare Financing.

She adds that it is clear that Healthcare Ministry’s funding request will not be satisfied in full, which is why scenarios are considered for he event if the entire request for funding is not approved.

As the politician explains, the ministry has worked on gradually ensuring an increase of funding for the industry to increase wages in specific professions in need of increased funding. The minister did not say which professions specifically she has in mind, only that it is planned to discuss this topic with the healthcare sector.

The minister believes that the Saeima acted irresponsibly when it approved amendments to the Healthcare Financing Law on the increase of wages by 20% in 2020. She believes the budget does not have sufficient funds to afford this, and this much was clear at the time of the vote.

«Three-year outlooks are an important part of the budget, and they were known in summer 2018,» added the minister. She believes politicians should be braver towards possible unpleasant developments in the long-term perspective and refrain from giving promises they cannot keep.

As the minister had previously said, the next year’s budget will have reserves of EUR 100 million for additional needs not included in the base budget.

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  1. Justs says:

    1st year resident doctors in Germany earn 4000 Euro monthly so you will have no doctors in Latvia soon.

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