Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Finance Minister Calls for Belt-Tightening in Healthcare

ZAGREB, April 3, 2019 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić on Wednesday recommended the introduction of cost-saving measures in the public healthcare system that was faced with a high debt exceeding seven billion kuna.

"Debts in the healthcare system have been accrued for years. We are the first government to have managed to cut the healthcare debts without raising the public debt. Nevertheless, the debts are still at high levels and exceed seven billion kuna, concerning (the debts of) the Croatian Health Insurance Agency (HZZO) and the public healthcare institutions," Marić told reporters outside Government House.

He dismissed media speculations that the debt in that sector was the cause for his dissension with Health Minister Milan Kujundžić.

Marić insists that he has a good relationship and communication with Kujundžić, however, he explained they could not have the identical opinion on everything.

In terms of the revenue side in the healthcare system, a lot has been done, however, it cannot solve all problems, and cost-saving is necessary, Marić said noting that there is room for belt-tightening.

Certain cost-saving can be performed through the optimisation of conditions for work (of hospitals), he said.

Marić recalled that in 2017 the government redirected 1.5 billion kuna to the healthcare system without a rise in the public debt. Also, during 2018, some 500 million kuna was redirected to the healthcare system for the purpose of debt reduction, he added, announcing some more funds for that purpose in 2019.

More healthcare news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

12,000 People in Croatia Affected by Autism

ZAGREB, April 2, 2019 - The federation of autism associations (SUZAH) on Tuesday organised a release of blue balloons in Zagreb's main square as well as in a few more Croatian cities to mark the twelfth annual World Autism Awareness Day, observed on April 2, and on that occasion activists underscored that an estimated 12,000 Croatians suffer from developmental disorders characterized by difficulties with social interaction and communication and by restricted and repetitive behaviour.

According to the Croatian Public Health Institute, there are 3,000 autistic persons in Croatia, but the associations insist that their estimates indicate that this number is much higher -- about 20,000 people have non-specific disorders related to the disease.

Nowadays one out of 65 new-born babies are affected by medical conditions related to the disease, SUZAH underscores.

The federation warns that Croatia still does not have platforms for systematic care for people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, and there is a lack of highly trained staff to treat autism-related medical conditions, SUZAH leader Lidija Penko said at a round table discussion which was held in Zagreb today.

Last week, Health Minister Milan Kujundžić received representatives of the associations to reassure them that his ministry would try to improve healthcare for autistic patients.

Public buildings are going to be illuminated in blue lights this evening on the occasion of World Autism Awareness Day.

More news about autism in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Health Ministry Says Medicine Supply Not in Question

ZAGREB, April 2, 2019 - Responding to a warning from wholesale drug suppliers that deliveries of drugs and medical supplies to hospitals will be suspended unless a solution is found with the government to settle hospitals' debts to wholesale drug suppliers, the Croatian Health Ministry said in a statement on Monday that drug supply was not in question.

"The Health Ministry is aware of the big and long-lasting problem of hospitals' drug debt," the ministry said, adding that it was working intensively to find a solution to the problem in cooperation with wholesale drug suppliers, the Croatian Health Insurance Institute and the Finance Ministry.

It recalled that owing to financial stability, the government in 2017 secured funds to settle the hospitals' debt to wholesale drug suppliers in the amount of 1.27 billion kuna. In 2018, the government provided 487 million kuna for that purpose and the HZZO secured an additional 100 million kuna.

"We stress that regardless of the complexity of the problem, citizens have no reason to worry that they will not be able to obtain drugs because the supply of drugs needed by patients is not in question," the ministry said.

The total debt of hospitals towards the four largest wholesale drug suppliers reached 2.2 billion kuna (300 million euro) at the end of last year, of which 85 percent had matured, and is increasing by 150 million kuna (20 million euro) per month, wholesale drug suppliers said earlier in the day.

More news about Croatian healthcare system can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 1 April 2019

28 Million Kuna Raised for Treatment of 2-Year-Old Leukaemia Patient

ZAGREB, April 1, 2019 - More than 28 million kuna has been collected in fundraisers over the past few days for the treatment of Mila Rončević, a two-year-old girl suffering from a rare type of leukaemia, which is more than the 18 million kuna needed to continue her treatment in the United States, the child's parents told a news conference on Monday.

The child's father, Marin Rončević, noted, however, that due to the latest problems in communication with the hospital for children's diseases in Philadelphia where the child is expected to continue her treatment, her departure for the United States was still not certain.

The father said that "some hiccups have occurred in communication with the hospital" which does not approve of making public the cost of treatment or treatment plans that have not been defined on the basis of medical examinations, adding that he expected the situation to be clearer on Monday evening, when the hospital was expected to inform the family of its conclusions regarding the child's treatment and whether she would be included in its experimental treatment programme.

If everything goes well, the family should leave for Philadelphia on Tuesday, but if that does not happen, the alternative is to seek experimental treatment in Switzerland, where the treatment costs roughly the same as in the US, said Rončević who with his wife called the news conference to thank everyone for their donations and for fund raisers organised over the past few days to collect money for their daughter's treatment.

Rončević also thanked Croatian medical experts Dragan Primorac and Ivan Đikić for their help as well as US Ambassador Robert Kohorst.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Associations Urge Better Treatment of Autism Patients

ZAGREB, March 28, 2019 - Representatives of autism associations gathered outside the government building on Thursday to warn about the problem of inadequate care for persons with autism demanding the establishment of a task force to include representatives of the relevant ministry and parents and caretakers of autistic persons.

The president of the Croatian Autism Federation, Lidija Penko, told the press that parents and caretakers of persons with autistic disorders need a platform to resolve problems that have piled up in the care system.

According to the Croatian Public Health Institute, there are 3,000 autistic persons in Croatia, but our estimates indicate that this number is much higher – about 20,000 people have non-specific disorders related to the illness, Penko said.

Previous assessments show one in 100 people are autistic, however, according to more recent figures one in 60 people have autism, Penko said adding that one in four boys are autistic.

She also underscored that a new autistic centre was opened in Osijek.

Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, who received representatives of associations, promised on Thursday his ministry would try to improve the health care conditions for autistic patients.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Right to Conscientious Objection to Abortion Burning Issue in Croatia

ZAGREB, March 27, 2019 - Health Minister Milan Kujundžić on Wednesday called for compliance with the legislation when it comes to honouring the right to conscientious objection concerning the issue of abortion, while at the same time that procedure should be made available.

"Anything that is in contravention with ethical and moral principles deserves condemnation," Kujundžić said, and commenting on the case of a woman in Dubrovnik who underwent an abortion procedure without anaesthesia due to the anaesthesiologist’s refusal to participate in the procedure, the minister said that the hospital should have engaged other doctors in such cases when their colleagues invoke the conscientious objection clause which allows them to refuse to participate in the termination of pregnancy.

Asked by the press when a new abortion law could be prepared, Kujundžić said that the law would be prepared but that there were no deadlines for its adoption. "Currently, we are thoroughly analysing the international practice," he added.

Opposition member of parliament Mirando Mrsić today accused the government of ignoring deadlines set by the Constitutional Court for the preparation of legislation on pregnancy termination. Mrsić said that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković is "a political coward".

The party called Strength (Snaga) has sent an open letter to Minister Kujundžić urging him to protect patients' rights in cases when hospital employees invoke conscientious objection clause to refuse to participate in abortions and assisted reproduction.

This party insists that the situation with medical staff invoking the right to conscientious objection has become untenable.

The party calls on the minister to clarify ambiguous rules about who could invoke that right and in which conditions that could be done so that patients' rights are not affected.

The open letter was prompted by reports that a great number of medical staff, notably anaesthesiologists and midwifes, refuse to participate in certain procedures, invoking their right to conscientious objection.

According to a report, every second midwife would like to invoke that right if the clause about that matter was more clearly defined in the legislation on midwifery.

The party asks the minister to provide information on the exact number of employees in the health sector and about a rate of conscientious objection.

More news about health sector in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Health Minister Announces Set of Healthcare Projects

ZAGREB, March 19, 2019 - A national children's hospital in Zagreb, a national cancer prevention plan, improvement of emergency medical services, introduction of mobile clinics and changes to the law on mandatory health insurance are only some of the projects Health Minister Milan Kujundžić announced for this year at a business breakfast held by the American Chamber of Commerce in Zagreb on Tuesday.

Addressing the event, which focused on the sustainability of the national healthcare system, Kujundžić said that everything was ready for the project to build a national children's hospital in Zagreb and that an international tender would be advertised in the coming days.

"A feasibility study has been prepared and money for it will come from EU funds. In the next few days an international tender will be advertised so that we can apply for EU funding," he said.

Kujundžić noted that the feasibility study cost 37 million kuna and that the construction of the hospital and its equipment would cost around 100 million euro.

Speaking of projects that had been implemented over the past two years, Kujundžić cited amendments to healthcare legislation, the introduction of priority waiting lists, functional integration of hospitals, an expensive drugs fund and the procurement of expensive equipment.

We are especially proud of priority waiting lists for specialist examinations which helped treat around 22,000 seriously ill patients in 2018, said the minister.

Speaking about day hospitals in different parts of the country, Kujundžić said that specialists from Split already worked at the day clinic in Zagvozd and that specialists from Dubrovnik would be working in a day clinic that would start operating in Metković today.

With regard to other demands for better healthcare in Metković, Kujundžić said that a framework had been defined to link the town's emergency service, laboratory and day clinic with the hospital in Mostar, in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The minister also mentioned projects to build hospitals in Pula and Rijeka, higher allocations for expensive medicines, a project to introduce the first robot surgical team, and an increase in the number of specialist internship programmes.

Kujundžić also said that an agreement on speedboats to transport patients from islands to the mainland would be signed in the next few months.

He dismissed speculation that the supplementary health insurance fee would be increased.

More news about Croatian healthcare system can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Lung Cancer Screening Programme to Be Launched in 10 Towns

ZAGREB, March 12, 2019 - A lung cancer screening programme will be launched in May in ten Croatian cities with the aim of reducing the fatality rate of that disease that is diagnosed among 3,000 people in Croatia each year.

Low-dose CT scanners that use latest technology to minimise the amount of X-rays needed to perform the scan will be distributed throughout Croatia and as of May family physicians will invite people considered to be at risk of that disease and those are smokers aged over 50.

The coordinator of the National lung cancer early detection programme, Miroslav Samaržija made this announcement on Monday adding that aim is to identify as many patients at the early stages when the cancer can still be cured

The programme was presented at an expert panel discussion titled "Europe of equal opportunities for patients with lung cancer", held at the BIOCentre at Zagreb's Borongaj campus.

Early detection is the only way to treat lung cancer, as targeted therapy provides survival but not permanent recovery, he explained adding that the survival rate in the USA is 15% to 20%, in Great Britain it is 10% yet in Croatia it is about 6%.

He underscored that the Netherlands and Belgium are the only two European countries that have conducted preventative and screening programmes like the one that is currently being introduced in Croatia. These countries have reduced their fatality rate for the illness by 25% to 40%, he added.

Samaržija explained that currently all medication for cancer treatment is available in Croatia just like in any other EU country, however, the only limitation is, the implementation of immunotherapy at the start of treatment and is accessible to 30% to 40% of patients in Croatia.

The panel heard that thanks to innovative therapy lung cancer could become a chronic illness and that today people live up to 10 years longer.

Mary Bussell of The Economist Intelligence Unit, presented the initial results of lung cancer research in 13 European countries which show that the best results were recorded in Finland, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom and that Austria, Greece and Romania were at the bottom of the list.

Bussell said that Croatia would soon join the research and in that way have access to information about the best practices in treating lung cancer in Europe.

More medical news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

FDA Approves Croatian Antibiotics

ZAGREB, March 6, 2019 - The U.S. Food and Drug Agency (FDA) has approved the use of Croatian antibiotics intended for treating dangerous hospital infections, discovered in the Zagreb based company Xellia Pharmaceuticals, the company officials said in a press release.

Xellia Pharmaceuticals’ Premixed Vancomycin Injection in a Ready-to-Use (RTU) bag, is a glycopeptide antibacterial indicated in adult and paediatric patients, age 1 month and older, for the treatment of septicaemia, infective endocarditis, skin and skin structure infections, bone infections and lower respiratory tract infections.

Vancomycin Injection RTU is provided as a premixed solution in single-dose flexible bags, stable at room temperature (up to 25 °C) for 16 months.

The patent holder for the medicine are Zageb scientists Ivona Jasprica and Katarina Alilović.

“It is a testament to our science, formulation and medical expertise that enabled us to successfully overcome the long-standing industry challenge of stabilizing vancomycin in solution at room temperature for an extended time, 16 months. We are continuing innovative R&D efforts with the goal to further broaden our portfolio of novel anti-infective therapies aimed at enhancing patient care and improving convenience and ease of use for healthcare professionals.” said Dr. Aleksandar Danilovski, Xellia's CSO.

The FDA’s approval for the United States market was obtained on the basis of more than 60 nonclinical experiments, including studies to confirm that the new formulation does not adversely impact the efficacy profile of the active ingredient, vancomycin.

More medicine news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Regional Autism Centre Opens in Osijek

ZAGREB, March 5, 2019 - The Autism Centre, built and equipped with funds from the local and state budgets, was opened in the eastern city of Osijek on Tuesday.

Opening the centre, which cost more than 20 million kuna (2.7 million euro), Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy Minister Nada Murganić said that the purpose of the centre was to enable the integration of children with autism-related disorders into the education system and provide autistic adolescents with other social services and help in their social integration.

She noted that there was a shortage of professionals specialising in work with children with autistic disorders.

Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said that there were currently around 30,000 students with disabilities in the primary and secondary school system and that around 87% of them attended school regularly.

Divjak said that the Osijek centre provided pre-school and primary education.

The centre's head, Sandra Zlatarić, said that a total of 26 children currently attended the centre's activities.

She said that the opening of the centre was of historic importance because until now there had been no systematic care for persons with autism-related disorders in Osijek and the Slavonia region.

Osijek-Baranja County head Ivan Anušić said that the centre would provide services not only for children from Slavonia and elsewhere in Croatia but also from some of the neighbouring countries.

More news on the health issues in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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