Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Additional 20 Million Euro to Be Allocated for Completion of Pula Hospital

ZAGREB, August 28, 2019 - Health Minister Milan Kujundžić on Tuesday said the government would find an additional 150 million kuna necessary to complete the construction of the new Pula hospital.

"Two years ago, the government decided to increase the amount by 300 million kuna for the new hospital in Pula and now due to price increases of building material and equipment, an additional 150 million kuna is needed. That money will be found and I am sincerely pleased that Pula will have a new hospital and better working conditions," Kujundžić told reporters outside Government House after meeting a delegation from Istria County.

Istria County Prefect Fabrizio Radin underscored that they had come across a lot of understanding from Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and the ministers of health and finance. "We will complete the hospital within a year to the benefit of all residents of Pula, Istria, tourists and all Croatia citizens," Radin said.

Pula Hospital's director Irena Hrstić said that she hoped that some new sections of the hospital would be ready to receive patients until the end of this year, as 75% of the construction has been completed.

She underlined that Pula will have a state-of-the-art health institution that will meet the requirements of residents in Istria county and tourists.

In late April, Kujundžić recalled that the government had to date ensured 100 million euro for the construction of the new hospital in Pula which was nearing completion.

More Pula news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Healthcare Unions and Government to Hold New Round of Talks

ZAGREB, August 26, 2019 - A third round of negotiations between healthcare sector unions and the government on Monday ended inconclusively over a proposed wage increase and the talks will resume on Wednesday with the unions saying that the government thinks it has bought some time with this move.

"These are not new negotiations but this is about an annex which has already been negotiated. I wouldn't say that anything important occurred at the meeting regarding employees' status. We are waiting for what is most significant, working conditions and salaries and that is still far from even being started to be discussed," Brankica Grgurić of the nurses' union said on Monday.

"Naturally, we will wait for negotiations on working conditions and salaries that will continue on Wednesday," unionist Stjepan Topolnjak added.

He underscored that their demands are still on the table and that "now they are going through some articles that need to be defined due to new members in the government's negotiation team."

"We will not insist on those articles that have already been agreed to but we will insist on those articles that regard the financial aspect," said Topolnjak.

He added that they insist on the agreed financial part which was initialled with Health Minister Milan Kujundžić.

"That is an increase of 7% -- 3% plus 4% -- and we will not back down from that," he underlined.

Asked whether the government has bought time with this and that the strike had been avoided, the unionists said, the government only thinks so.

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

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Health Sector Unions Preparing for Strike

ZAGREB, August 20, 2019 - Health sector union representatives were disappointed with the outcome of a meeting with the ministers of finance, labour and health in the Health Ministry regarding a planned wage increase and despite an announcement of the start of a new round of negotiations, the unionists seem ready for a strike action.

The union representatives reiterate that they will not back down from their demands that were initialled in a collective agreement with Health Minister Milan Kujundžić and that is, a wage increase of three percent for working conditions and four percent for life and health responsibility for all workers in the healthcare sector working in diagnostics and treatment.

The leader of the nurses' union, Anica Prašnjak stated that union committees would decide on the date of the strike and in the meantime, they will see what the government will put to the union at a meeting scheduled for Friday.

"The unions are planning a strike, protest action and an awkward situation in the health system because they consider that this delaying isn't leading anywhere. People no longer have any hope and we have to organise ourselves," she said.

The physicians' union will join the strike in support of nurses and other workers in health, said Igor Tripalo, the leader of the third largest health sector union.

Tripalo is disappointed with the outcome of today's talks and underscored that in addition to striking, physicians have the possibility of rescinding their agreement to work more than 48 hours a week as a sign of protest.

Health Minister Milan Kujundžić said that negotiations have formally been returned to the start but that he expects healthcare workers to eventually be given a wage increase. He said that a proposed negotiation team would be proposed to the government today so that negotiations can continue on Friday and hopes that everything will be resolved by October 31.

"I think that in the end, Croatian physicians, nurses and all workers need to receive a higher wage if we want to keep them in Croatia,", he said.

Kujundžić thanked the unions for their understanding, modesty and fairness.

Disappointed with the outcome of today's meeting union leader Stjepan Topolnjak said that the unions had expected to launch the negotiations today and that the unions will remain steadfast in that the initialled collective agreement remains to be the starting position for negotiations.

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

Monday, 19 August 2019

Health Sector Unions Insist on Wage Increase

ZAGREB, August 19, 2019 - Ahead of a meeting with Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, the head of the Independent Union in Health and Health Insurance, Stjepan Topolnjak, on Monday said that the unions would not back down from demanding a wage increase that was agreed to during collective negotiations.

"We want to get what we initialled - a wage increase of three percent for working conditions and four percent for life and health responsibility for all workers in the healthcare sector working in diagnostics and treatment, which amounts to 400 million kuna a year," Topolnjak told Hina.

Union representatives are expected to resume the talks with Kujundžić on Tuesday to discuss starting positions after a previous round of negotiations collapsed whereby a 3% wage increase as of 1 August and a 4% increase as of 1 October this year was on the table.

"If the government does not accept that and has a hidden agenda, our demands will be higher. We expect Kujundžić to present the government's stance and what we can expect. We want negotiations to be held at such a pace that they be concluded by 15 September and if that does not occur, our committees will decide to launch union action," Topolnjak said.

The leader of the nurses' union, Anica Prašnjak expects a definite answer from the health ministry and what the government has decided to do to deal with the needs of people employed in the health sector, primarily nurses and doctors who are in high demand on the European market.

Health Minister Milan Kujundžić has announced that he will ask the unions to have patience and wait for about 15 to 20 days so that the Finance Ministry can make some calculations and for the government to come to an agreement. He is convinced that the government will make a decision on a wage increase within a month's time.

He underscored that a wage increase in the health sector of 3+4 percent is the "bare minimum" that needs to be accepted so that physicians and nurses stay in Croatia and added that he was grateful that the unions did not go on strike during the tourist season.

An agreement was signed in the Health Ministry on July 31 to extend the Collective Agreement for workers in health and health insurance with two unions however the government did not accept an initialled wage increase for 72,000 workers in the system and instead announced further negotiations.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 16 August 2019

How Many Physicians Work in Croatia? No One Knows

ZAGREB, August 16, 2019 - There are 15,047 physicians employed in the Croatian health system according to data from the Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ), while the Croatian Medical Chamber (HLK) says that its statistics show that 13,613 doctors are currently hired in Croatia, the Večernji List daily said in an article in its issue on Friday.

Thus, the discrepancy between these numbers is 1434, which prompted the daily newspaper to ask the HLK about that.

The chamber insists that it provides figures about the currently employed doctors and those 13,613 include 271 retired doctors who work now four hours per working day.

The daily says that it could not obtain the answer from the HZJZ whose statistics referred to the number of employed physicians at the end of 2018.

The HZJZ data also show that the number of employed doctors in 2018 rose by 200 in comparison to 2017.

The daily also says that the HZJZ data mean that Croatia has one doctor per 272 inhabitants, which is around the European average.

According to data provided by the European Union's statistical office in September last year, the number of physicians per 100,000 inhabitants is the highest in Austria, 509.7, while Croatia has 319.1 doctors per 100,000 inhabitants,

Bulgaria is the EU country with the largest number of dentists in relation to the overall population, 105.1 per 100,000 inhabitants, while Croatia has 79.5 dentists per 100,000 inhabitants, which puts it in the upper part of the rankings. Poland has the lowest ratio - 33.2 dentists per 100,000 inhabitants.

Life expectancy in Croatia is 78.2 years, which is slightly below the EU average as the expected average life span in the EU is 81 years.

More medical news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Higher Salaries for Healthcare Workers

ZAGREB, August 14, 2019 - Health Minister Milan Kujundžić said on Wednesday that the government would find a way to increase healthcare workers' salaries by four percent, asking healthcare workers for understanding as salaries could not be increased more, while unions of healthcare workers said they would not give up on their demand for a wage increase and could not rule out a strike.

Kujundžić said that the unions had negotiated in the most fair way, with their demands regarding the wage increase being modest.

"I believe the government will find a way to increase the salaries of healthcare workers by 4% and I hope those workers will understand that currently their salaries cannot go up more," said the minister.

"The current delay is only due to the need to make adjustments in the budget and due to possible requests for a wage increase in other sectors. The government has understanding. We must keep our doctors and nurses who are very much sought-after in Europe," the minister said, adding that the problem would be resolved in the coming weeks.

The leader of the SSZSSH union of healthcare and welfare workers, Stjepan Topolnjak, said that unions would not give up on their demands, noting that he also could not rule out a strike.

Unions in the healthcare sector expect salaries in that sector to go up by 3% in August and by 4% in October.

Topolnjak said that negotiations on higher salaries had lasted for a year and a half.

"The government still does not realise that medical workers are leaving the country in search of better work conditions and that there is already a shortage of medical staff," he said.

He added that he expected specific figures on funds to be allocated to the healthcare sector to be put on the table at talks set for August 20.

Talks on higher salaries in the health sector should not depend on similar talks with other public services, he said, recalling that salaries in the education sector would go up by 4% in October and by 2% in January 2020.

"The government must know that there is not enough personnel in the health system, that people are emigrating, not only medical workers but non-medical workers as well. There is no time to lose," Topolnjak said.

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

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Police Launches Probe after Doctor's Refusal to Give Them Driver's Medical Records

ZAGREB, August 14, 2019 - The Interior Ministry stated on Tuesday evening that an investigation was launched into a family doctor in the case of the drugged driver who caused the 11 July traffic accident with casualties after she refused to provide the police with medical records of her patient.

After media allegations about the doctor being fined for having failed to report the medical condition that affected the 35-year-old man`s driving ability, the police find it necessary to clarify that the investigation had been launched against the doctor after she refused to give the police the documentation in connection with that patient, citing the medical confidentiality.

The doctor was fined 5,000 kuna.

As for the duty of doctors to report to the police changes in medical conditions of their patients that may affect their driving abilities, the police said that in 2018, they had received 821 reports of that kind and 897 in 2017.

In the first half of this year, the police received 742 reports from doctors about the change in the health condition of their patients that may affect their driving ability.

The KoHOM federation of family doctors said on Monday that it would advocate the introduction of periodic checkups for drivers to make those aged below 65 undergo medical exams every ten years and those above 65 every five years.

The federation also called on its members to report to police any change in the health condition of their patients that may affect their driving ability.

The proposal for obligatory periodic medical examinations ensued after the 11 July traffic accident in which a three-member Hungarian family was seriously injured at a toll gate on the A4 motorway near Sveta Helena when the BMW driven by the drug addict ran into them at high speed.

Several days after the accident, the office of the family doctor whose patient the driver was, was searched by the police as part of an investigation into the crash.

This prompted the federation of family doctors to recall that the legislation on traffic safety envisages that doctors are obliged to report to the police any case of inability of drivers-patients to drive safely when it is detected during a medical checkup or treatment.

The legislation, however, does not specify which medical conditions should be reported, which puts family doctors in a difficult position, underscores KoHOM, citing a long list of medical conditions that may theoretically be regarded as risks for safe driving.

More medical news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Sugar Tax Won't Directly Go into Health Budget

ZAGREB, July 31, 2019 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Wednesday a tax on sugar in soft drinks under new rates proposed by the government would not necessarily mean higher revenues for the Health Ministry.

This tax has no specific purpose, so its revenue is general and serves to pay the general needs from the state budget, he told reporters when asked if the Health Ministry could count on higher revenues due to higher sugar rates.

Marić said the government was not imposing a new tax but correcting an existing one. The sugar ratio in soft drinks, under the government's proposal, will not be taxed by 40 kuna per 100 litres but depending on the percentage of sugar in those drinks, he added.

As for possibly higher excises on tobacco and alcohol, Marić said excises would go up at the end of the year and that he assumed producers would calculate them into prices. "We are not proposing a dramatic jump that would disrupt market relations."

Health Minister Milan Kujundžić said higher prices for cigarettes and soft drinks were absolutely justified, after criticism that such measures in some other countries have yielded no results.

"Demographically, ethically and medically speaking, it's absolutely justified to raise prices, significantly, so that our children don't enter the world of vice," he told reporters.

Financially speaking, Kujundžić said it should be analysed and that he therefore understood Marić's caution.

Cigarettes take 15,000 lives a year and from an ethical and human aspect, nothing is more important than saving those lives, while demographically speaking, 15,000 more people annually would mean a lot, he added.

Asked what that money would be spent on, Kujundžić said it was not important and that saving people's health and lives was.

More tax news can be found in the Business section.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Grant Agreements Signed to Promote Health

ZAGREB, July 23, 2019 - The Ministry of Health and the Croatian Employment Service in Zagreb on Tuesday presented health institutions and organisations with 7.7 million kuna (1 million euro) worth of grant agreements aimed at increasing public awareness of the importance of health promotion and disease prevention.

The agreements were presented as part of the project "Health Promotion and Disease Prevention - Phase 1" from the European Social Fund.

The total amount of the grants is 27 million kuna (3.6 million euro), and today the first 12 successful applicants were granted 13 agreements worth 7.7 million kuna. EU funding will be used to promote healthy habits and good health, increase public awareness of the importance of preventing chronic contagious, non-contagious, rare and malignant diseases, and provide additional training for medical staff.

These projects will help health organisations throughout the country "to raise public awareness of how important it is for each of us to take measures to prevent numerous diseases, primarily cardiovascular ones," Health Minister Milan Kujundžić said.

He said that smoking and alcohol were "the two greatest evils" affecting people's health and family lives.

"I hope that through education people will become aware how harmful smoking and alcohol are and that in the years ahead far fewer Croats will suffer from diseases they could influence through prevention," Kujundžić said.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Tender Advertised for Construction of New Bjelovar General Hospital

ZAGREB, July 22, 2019 - An international public tender has been advertised for the construction of a new General Hospital building in Bjelovar, about 80 kilometres northeast of Zagreb, the largest construction project in the healthcare sector in Bjelovar-Bilogora County in the last 40 years.

The tender, worth 165 million kuna, includes the construction of a day hospital and surgery ward, an integrated emergency services reception centre, heat pumps and a waste separation system. 70 million kuna has been secured from two tenders for EU funding, 5 million kuna comes from the Fund for co-financing the implementation of European projects, and the remaining 90 million kuna has been secured by a loan taken by the Bjelovar General Hospital.

The construction of the new Bjelovar General Hospital building is the third such investment in the Croatian health sector after the construction of the general hospitals in Zabok and Pula. It should increase the standard of patient treatment and improve the quality of work conditions for hospital doctors and staff.

More medical news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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