VILNIUS - During the picket of medics at the Seimas (Lithuanian parliament) on June 3, doctors had a chance to demonstrate how important their role is when they saved the life of a baby of a member of the Seimas, Asta Baukute.
"Thank God there was a picket of medics by the Seimas. Otherwise I don't know what could have happened to my Rapolas" said Baukute after the incident.
The child, under one year of age, had been staying with a nanny and an older daughter of Baukute in the Seimas hotel when he suddenly choked on a toy and started to suffocate. The frightened daughter ran out to the street to call for help from the doctors, who were protesting in the square under the windows of the Seimas hotel and the Lithuanian parliament.
The doctors immediately provided professional help, vacating the child's airways and saving his life. As soon as Baukute found out about the incident, she ran to the hotel. An ambulance took the mother and child to the hospital.
A tragedy was avoided thanks to the medics, who had gathered to protest against a decrease of financing by 300 million litas (86.9 million euros) and to express their discontent with certain aspects of the health reform.
More than 400 medical staff, patients and doctors from various districts of Lithuania had gathered to protest.
Not only were they unhappy with the budget cuts, but also with the government's unification of holiday and work periods for all doctors.
This unification shortens holidays for "special risk groups' (e.g. ambulance doctors, radiologists) doctors from 42 to 36 calendar days. It also extends the working week to 38 hours.
The government's order on the unification of working time has been put aside for a month, while the order on unification of holiday periods has been enforced since June 1.
"I'm tired 's you're dead," "Health ministry has a crisis of mind," "Today 's a mister, tomorrow 's a corpse" threatened the slogans along a line of emergency automobiles.
When Health Minister Algis Caplikas came out to talk with the crowd, he was greeted with boos and screams "Shame on you."
"The ministers of social security and health are obliged to ensure social guarantees for medics facing professional risk. If both of them only harmonized it among themselves, both of them should resign," said Albina Kavaliauskaite, the head of the Lithuanian professional union.
The medical workers requested that the previous working hours be restored. The professional unions also demanded that financing for health care remain the same.
However, not all doctors share the opinion and demands of the protesters. The doctors opposing the protests distributed a declaration signed by the biggest national hospitals and public organizations.
"We evaluate the solutions prepared by the health ministry on the unification of working and holiday time period of the medical care workers as the first step toward genuine health reform, by providing a possibility to use the funds more rationally," said the declaration.
Furthermore, the World Bank's report 's which was made public on June 5 's said Lithuania's ratio of hospitals per population is double the average in Europe, with 5 hospitals for 100,000 residents. The system should be reformed to focus on early diagnostics and more outpatients, the World Bank recommends.
The health minister said the report was accurate, and that the government was working toward improving the situation. "The criticism is justified, the reform is necessary," Caplikas said.