RIGA - Patients arriving for treatment, either by foot or in ambulance, to Riga 1st Hospital, began to be turned away August 10 cue to the severe budget shortfalls that are threatening public healthcare in the country.
"We will not accept patients at the Accident and Emergency Department outside of set working hours anymore. We will be the villains, even though this is not our fault," said the chairman of the hospital's board, Andrejs Pavars, reports news agency LETA.
"From now on, the hospital will only provide treatment for self-pay patients in the daytime, and will be strictly observing the set quotas," he added, regarding the squeeze on available funding.
As previously reported, approximately two-thirds, or 570 staff are to be laid off at the hospital this month. Two weeks of talks with the Health Ministry and the Riga City Council resulted in no solution, leading to the expected cutbacks in services. Pavars went on to say that the hospital will become an outpatient clinic.
The newly appointed advisor to the prime minister on health care, Peteris Apinis, said that "in proposing to shut down Riga 1st Hospital, the Health Ministry has shown its inconsistency. He feels that the hospital will not close, and the ministry will have to find other options."
He believes that it is still possible to find extra funds within the Ministry, and that "it can be distributed more rationally." More specifically, he says it is necessary to "re-distribute the money at the expense of the bureaucracy, because right now only two-thirds of available financing is being utilized for medical treatment."
"Solutions to the health care sector problems could be found within a month," says Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis after meeting with Health Minister Baiba Rozentale. The prime minister emphasized that both sides are in agreement that the collapse of the health care system cannot be allowed, and political discussions and arguments must be put aside to find a specific solution to the problems.
According to Dombrovskis, "solutions will be found to identify additional financing from within the health care sector, as well as possibly allocating some financing from the international loans."
Despite an earlier threat from pharmaceutical wholesaler Recipe Plus to stop deliveries of medicine to the Pauls Stradins Clinical University Hospital due to an increasing amount of unpaid bills, totaling 900,000 lats (1.3 million euros), the drug wholesaler said it will continue to supply the hospital with necessary supplies. Hospital finance director Modris Dzenitis said that recent funding problems "led to delayed payments."