RIGA - Latvia's Health Minister Baiba Rozentale has sent to the government an official request for the allocation of 45 million lats (64 million euros) to fill the hole in her healthcare budget, reports news agency LETA. She believes this money can be taken from the European Commission's 1.2 billion euro loan that Latvia recently received. This however results in more pressure on the budget deficit.
With money running out in the healthcare budget, the ministry reported last week that hospitals throughout Latvia may soon be closed due to lack of funds. Rozentale says that if additional funds don't arrive, "several hospitals will have to halt accepting emergency patients in as soon as two months." "The budget must be amended immediately, if not, many medical establishments will face bankruptcy," she stressed.
Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis has asked Rozentale to hand in a detailed report reviewing the distribution of financing in the healthcare sector for 2008 and this year for a clear understanding of where the spending was made.
As reported, Rozentale has said on several occasions that the funding for healthcare is insufficient and extra funds must be allotted, though Dombrovskis has repeatedly said that allocating more money from the state budget is impossible under current circumstances.
"The planned funding for healthcare now is not enough to maintain healthcare services even at the level in 2006," said Rozentale. The fact that the funding for healthcare will be returned to the level in 2006 does not mean returning to the volume of healthcare services available in 2006, since various costs have increased since that time, as well as value-added tax on medical products, gas, water, transport.
She warns further that "If the government's plans are enforced, healthcare will return to mid-1990s."
Rozentale also indicated that in case additional financing will not be granted, the Health Ministry will consider a radical solution, which is, the State would pay for the first two days in the hospital, but patients would have to pay for the rest. This would mean that for a five to six day hospital stay, the cost to patients could reach at least 200 - 300 lats. This is much more than the current payment, which is 12 lats per day.
Meanwhile, during a Cabinet meeting on July 28, the tone of conversation between Dombrovskis and Rosentale heated up over the elimination of the Public Health Agency (SVA). However, the two officials agreed that they do not have, in principle, objections to the SVA liquidation.
Dombrovskis expressed his indignation at the fact that, in connection with the liquidation of the SVA Health Ministry (HM), he has received three different, contradictory documents, which were submitted to the State Chancellery on the Health Ministry's latest plan, which assumes liquidation of the SVA. The prime minister expressed his outrage that the plan was presented too late, that it was not possible to get acquainted with the details, and that it was incomplete.
In turn, Rozentale said that the way in which the Ministry dissolves the agency is in the Ministry's competence, and that the government decision on SVA liquidation has been already accepted, on July 14, so that there is no need to adopt the decision again.
Dombrovskis stressed that he supports the conceptual liquidation of the SVA, however, that it should not be done in this fashion.
Overall, the two officials agreed that the plan for institutional restructuring will not be accepted and the decision made July 14 remains valid, which presumes liquidation of the Public Health Agency.
In the future the SVA functions will be spread out among the Health Ministry, Health Inspection, the Latvian Infections Center, disaster medicine and the Institute of Health Protection Economics. With the reorganization of SVA the number of staff in health care management will drop by 235.