Saturday, 23 November 2019

Croatian Medical Chamber Accuses Government of Ignoring Doctors' Demands

ZAGREB, November 23, 2019 - The Croatian Medical Chamber (HLK) and the doctors' union (HLS) on Saturday said in a press release that they would launch several actions in December to draw attention to the untenable status of their profession.

The HLK and HLS associations say in a press release that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and his cabinet are turning a deaf ear to their demands.

In this context they recall that two months ago they asked the premier to hold an urgent meeting with them over "the poor and worrisome situation in the profession of doctors and in the Croatian healthcare system."

They demanded the immediate beginning of the elaboration of the legislation on pay and working hours for physicians.

The two associations today said that they had not received any answer from the premier so far.

"It is irresponsible not only to doctors but also to our patients," they say announcing a news conference for next week.

In September, the HLK, the HLS and the Croatian Doctors' Association adopted a joint statement in which they warned about the more and more deepening staff, financial, infrastructural and organisational crisis in the healthcare system.

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

Friday, 15 November 2019

First Human Milk Bank Opened in Croatia

ZAGREB, November 15, 2019 - The first human milk bank was opened at Zagreb's Women's Hospital on Friday, its purpose being to provide milk donated by nursing mothers to prematurely born and seriously ill infants.

Around 2,000 children are born prematurely in Croatia every year, and around 400 need intensive health care to survive. Mother's milk has proven to be beneficial for infants owing to its unique nutritional and immunological characteristics and the milk from the bank will be given to the most vulnerable groups of babies to provide them with the best possible care and improve their chances of survival, experts said at the opening of the bank.

It is estimated that feeding the most vulnerable infants - those weighing less than 1,500 grams - requires collecting around 100,000 litres of human milk across the country. In time the bank aims to meet the demand for human milk at the level of the entire country.

Before it is used, the donated milk will have to pass the necessary checks to prove it is fit for consumption and the donors will be tested for infectious and other diseases.

For the time being, milk will be collected from women whose children are under the age of one, and all potential donors may contact the human milk bank on their own.

The bank is part of the Croatian Tissue and Cell Bank and it also includes a breastfeeding centre.

UNICEF Croatia Office head Regina M. Castillo said that thanks to donors, UNICEF had helped equip the human milk bank with equipment for the processing and storage of milk and provided for the education of health workers, and that it was currently purchasing a vehicle for the collection and distribution of donated milk.

She said that Croatia had one of the highest breastfeeding rates in Europe and the rest of the world.

The total value of the project is eight million kuna, of which five million was provided by the Health Ministry to furnish the bank's offices while UNICEF gave 3.4 million to buy the equipment. That amount includes 1.2 million bequeathed by doctor Heda Dubac Šohaj, it was said.

Having a human milk bank provides for the early development and health of children whose mothers cannot breastfeed, Health Minister Milan Kujundžić said, adding that Croatia was trying to catch up with more developed countries also in that segment of health care.

There are 239 human milk banks in Europe today. Of Croatia's neighbours, Italy has the largest number (37), Hungary has eight, and Serbia has three. Work is currently under way in Slovenia to open the first such bank.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

New Angiography Room Opened at Zagreb's Sisters of Mercy Hospital

ZAGREB, October 29, 2019 - A new angiography room with a state-of-the-art device for stroke treatment, bought with money from the EU Regional Development Fund, was formally opened at Zagreb's Sisters of Mercy Hospital on the occasion of World Stroke Day on Tuesday.

The device is one of five such devices bought with EU money, in the total value of 172 million kuna (22 million euro). The devices are part of an intervention neuroradiology network, designed to remove the blood clot from an acute stroke sufferer's brain as soon as possible, thus minimising the consequences of the condition and maximising chances of recovery.

Health Minister Milan Kujundžić said that this was one in a number of small steps that were being made with regard to the improvement of healthcare in the last three years.

The network of angio devices has started functioning not only in Zagreb but in Split and Rijeka as well, he said, adding that another such device would be put in operation in Osijek as well.

This puts Croatia on a par with the world's most developed countries, just as we have done in intervention cardiology, said Kujundžić.

He said efforts would be made to keep top doctors in Croatia and provide every patient with help in alleviating the consequences of vascular diseases.

Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Marko Pavić said that the total value of the five angio rooms was 172 million kuna and that Croatia had so far signed contracts with the EU for more than 1.7 billion kuna worth of work and equipment for hospitals and local health care centres.

The head of the Sisters of Mercy diagnostics and intervention radiology department, Dijana Zadravec, said that the department was capable of performing an angiography, reducing stroke damage and even preventing disability within 24 hours.

More medical news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

More Pensioners to Be Eligible for Free Supplemental Health Insurance?

ZAGREB, October 24, 2019 - The Croatian Pensioners Union (SUH), which insists on raising the income threshold for eligibility to free supplemental health insurance so that a higher number of pensioners can be given free-of charge supplemental health insurance, on Thursday sent an open letter to the government with its demands.

Representatives of the SUH gathered outside Government House in the morning to inform the general public of their demand that the government should provide a higher number of pensioners with free supplemental health insurance.

The unionists warn that the pension indexation in the last years led to higher monthly pension allowances, while the income threshold has remained the same, which is why some 10,000 pension recipient have lost their right to have the state pay for their supplemental health insurance.

The income threshold is the same since 2004: for instance, 1,939 kuna for a single-member household, while the SUH union insists that this threshold should be raised to 2,485 kuna, which means that all pension recipients whose monthly income is below that line should be eligible to have the state pay for their supplemental health insurance.

The union says that 98% of monthly pension allowances is below the average monthly wage, and 55% of monthly pension allowances is below the poverty line of 2,485 kuna.

Currently, 163,000 pension recipients are covered by the scheme of the supplemental health insurance paid by the state for them, while others have to pay with their own funds.

SUH activists announced further protest actions until their demands are met.

More pension system news can be found in the Business section.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Federation for Rare Diseases Raising Public Awareness of Such Illnesses

ZAGREB, October 20, 2019 - The Croatian national federation for rare diseases on Saturday organised events in Zagreb's Zrinjevac square to raise awareness of such diseases.

Rare diseases are considered to be those that affect fewer than five people per 10,000 inhabitants. About 250,000-300,000 people in Croatia are estimated to be suffering from such diseases.

The national federation is an umbrella association with over 1,000 individual members and 28 associations acting for the benefit of patients with more than 400 different rare diagnoses.

The federation is planning to open a centre for people affected by such diseases, the federation's vice-president Sara Bajlo said.

It is also preparing the development of a database.

Some of the most important activities of the federation is to provide psychosocial help and support to its members and to manage the Croatian Help Line for Rare Diseases (- 0800 99 66 -).

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

National Cancer Plan Coming This Year

ZAGREB, October 19, 2019 - Last year 13,809 died in Croatia from invasive cancers and the National Cancer Plan, which should contribute to reducing those grim numbers, is expected to be put to the government before the end of the year, Health Minister Milan Kujundžić said on Friday.

In Croatia, a patient is diagnosed with cancer every 22 minutes, while every 38 minutes someone dies from cancer, and the experts who prepared the national plan consider that its implementation could save 4,500 lives in the next ten years.

"The point is to implement the plan. If the plan is not backed financially, it will be just another frustration of us," said Eduard Vrdoljak, president of the Croatian Oncology Society and head of the task force that prepared the plan.

The plan will cost 1.5 billion kuna over a period of 10 years and comprises 228 measures that include investment in primary prevention and early diagnosis as well as in infrastructure - a national oncology network, a national oncology data base and the monitoring of its implementation in order to achieve its main aim and that is to improve the results of treatment and to reduce the fatality rate, Vrdoljak said.

If Croatia succeeds in that, that will be the best investment in the survival of the Croatian nation and the reform of Croatia's health sector, he added.

Croatian cancer patients have access to state-of-the-art therapy, immunotherapy and genetic therapy, and about 700-800 million kuna is spent on that out of a total of 1.4 billion kuna in the fund for particularly expensive medicines.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Opposition Demands Dismissal of Health Minister Kujundžić

ZAGREB, October 17, 2019 - The parliament on Wednesday afternoon started debating a motion to give Health Minister Milan Kujundžić a vote of no confidence, tabled by the MOST party with the support of 32 members of parliament, with opposition MPs criticising the minister for not launching a reform of the healthcare sector and for trying to influence the judiciary.

Explaining the motion, MOST MP Ines Strenja said that the minister had failed to adopt a health insurance law on time and ensure its implementation.

She also accused the minister of failing to consolidate primary healthcare and of failing to reorganise and financially stabilise the system.

Opposition MPs also criticised the minister for poorly managing human resources, resulting in a brain drain and some hospital wards closing down due to a lack of doctors and nurses.

"Patients get what they are given and not what they need, and that is unacceptable. There is no more time for inaction because the situation has become unbearable for doctors, nurses, wholesale drug suppliers and patients," Strenja said.

She added that the minister was no longer perceived as a relevant interlocutor, which was why the prime minister was being increasingly addressed to solve problems.

The opposition claims that the minister has demonstrated a lack of fundamental knowledge about the health system which, it says, has become financially unsustainable.

Opposition MPs also resent that the minister has tried to influence the judiciary in order to prevent courts from handing down verdicts that would be in favour of doctors who have sued the state over unpaid overtime.

The opposition submitted the motion for a vote of no confidence in Kujundžić before the parliament's summer recess in July, insisting that the issue should be discussed at an extraordinary parliamentary session but that did not happen because the Constitutional Court ruled that a motion backed by one-fifth of all MPs was not sufficient reason to discuss an item at an extraordinary session of the parliament during its recess.

This is the second time the parliament is discussing a vote of no confidence in Kujundžić after last year, around the same time, the minister's replacement was discussed for the first time, also at MOST's asking. At the time, the Opposition cited as many as 52 reasons why the minister should step down.

ZAGREB, October 17, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Wednesday dismissed an opposition motion to give Health Minister Milan Kujundžić a vote of no confidence, saying that Kujundžić, "who has worked with commitment on ensuring healthcare quality and availability," would stay in his government.

Defending the minister from opposition MPs' criticism, Plenković said that his government had implemented a number of measures to upgrade the healthcare sector and that it had achieved significant progress and stabilised the sector.

He noted that his government had inherited the sector's debt and that before the economy got into full swing and the amount of money flowing into the health insurance fund increased, it would not be possible to ensure the sector's financial stability.

Plenković recalled that an extra 1.3 billion kuna had been redirected into the health system in 2017 and that the sector's debt had been reduced from 8.2 billion kuna to 7.8 billion kuna.

"In 2019 significant funds, in the amount of 1.5 billion kuna, were secured for expensive drugs. Wholesale drug suppliers were recently paid 300 million kuna of a 500 million debt for the drugs supplied and the remaining amount will be paid to them by the end of the year," said the PM.

He announced the continuation of the rationalisation of the health system and better solutions for its financing as well as the continuation of work on promoting the quality of medical services. "Minister Kujundžić will have an important role in that," he added.

Addressing the parliament, Kujundžić said that since the start of 2017 the government had increased wages in healthcare by 18% whereas during the term of the Zoran Milanović government those wages were reduced.

"The maximum possible amount, of 2.2 billion kuna, has been absorbed from EU funds and invested in Croatian hospitals," he said.

He noted that 15,300 doctors and 31,000 nurses currently work in Croatia, which is a slightly higher number than in 2015.

The average number of doctors per 100,000 inhabitants in the EU is 350 and in Croatia it is 340, the minister said, warning against dramatising the situation in healthcare.

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

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Croatian Health Sector Has Absorbed 100% of Available EU Funds

ZAGREB, October 16, 2019 - Health Minister Milan Kujundžić on Tuesday said that Croatia had absorbed 100% of the European Union's funds put at disposal for the national healthcare sector.

Kujundžić said this during the ceremony of opening of the reconstructed Gastroenterology Department at the Dubrava general hospital in Zagreb.

The Regional Development and EU Funds State-Secretary Spomenka Đurić confirmed Kujundžić's statement saying that almost 380 million euro had been allocated for the health sector from the Competitiveness and Cohesion Operational Programme.

"This is a sector that has absorbed not just what was made available to it but much more - it has invested in day hospitals, primary health protection, specialised hospitals," Đurić said at the opening ceremony of the project that involved an investment of 9 million kuna from EU funds.

Kujundžić announced that the healthcare sector was making preparations to absorb even more funds from the EU in the 2020 - 2030 period to build four new university hospital centres in Split, Rijeka, Osijek and Zagreb.

More healthcare news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

FEMS to Report Violation of Croatian Doctors' Rights to International Organisations

ZAGREB, October 8, 2019 - The European Federation of Salaried Doctors (FEMS) said on Monday that it would file a report with the supervisory bodies of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) over violations of labour and union rights of Croatian doctors.

The move was proposed by the head of the FEMS General Assembly, Joao De Deus, at the autumn session of the FEMS General Assembly held in Riga, Latvia, on October 3-5, the Croatian Medical Union (HLS) said.

The procedure before international institutions over violation of doctors' labour and union rights was previously requested by HLS president Renata Čulinović-Čaić, who took part in the FEMS General Assembly meeting and submitted a national report on the status of doctors in Croatia.

The report to ILO is only one in a number of steps to be taken before European and other international institutions with the aim of protecting Croatian doctors' rights, the HLS said in a press release.

The Croatian government's actions regarding the settlement of problems faced by Croatian doctors have been monitored by FEMS over the past six months yet they remain unsolved, the HLS says in the press release.

The problems concern lack of representativeness, inadequate payment for overtime work, and exceeding the legal maximum overtime work allowed.

The FEMS Assembly was also informed of a declaration signed by three Croatian umbrella medical associations as well as the government's disregard for their demand to meet with the prime minister.

The three associations demand in their declaration urgent adoption of a law on doctors' salaries or a collective branch agreement.

In the coming days the three medical associations will start preparations for further action, of which the public will be informed on time, the HLS said.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Harsher Penalties for Parents Not Vaccinating Their Children?

ZAGREB, October 4, 2019 - Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković said on Thursday that after an analysis and public consultation, he would take a stance on a proposal by the children's ombudsman that parents not vaccinating their children be convicted and sent to prison, saying however that harsher penalties were more effective.

Speaking to reporters after the cabinet meeting on Thursday, Bošnjaković said that public consultation on amendments to the criminal law had just ended and that he was yet to analyse all the proposals, objections and suggestions that have arrived including the proposal by the ombudsman.

"We will consult the medical and legal profession, faculties and see where we are," he said, adding that it was too early to comment on the ombudsman's proposal.

Commenting on a statement by Health Minister Milan Kujundžić that drastic penalties were not necessary and fines were enough, along with informing parents, Bošnjaković said that he is not familiar with the medical aspect, however he would talk with everyone and see what the best solution was.

"We already had amendments to the criminal law whereby we increased penalties for those committing crimes toward children and minors. I think that harsher penalties are more effective than lenient ones which do not deter possible perpetrators. I think that harsher penalties are a better message to those who might want to commit a crime," said Bošnjaković.

More vaccination news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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