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.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Government Gives Go-Ahead for Personalised Medicine in Oncology

ZAGREB, July 18, 2019 - The government on Thursday gave the go-ahead to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Roche pharmaceutical company for the preparation and implementation of the project "Personalised medicine in oncology" aimed at improving cancer treatment outcomes in Croatia.

The project aims to improve care for cancer patients by using genetic profiling to ensure targeted therapy, improve the quality of life and treatment outcomes, and reduce the mortality rate among patients suffering from malignant diseases.

The project provides for establishing a national centre and a national team for targeted treatment based on genetic profiling.

The Roche company has sent a letter to the Health Ministry expressing its intent to participate in the preparation and implementation of the project. By accepting the letter of intent, the government supports the transformation and enhancement of oncological care in Croatia based on a personalised approach and treatment based on the results of genetic profiling and data from clinical practice," Health Minister Milan Kujundžić said.

The Health Ministry will set up a task force, comprising representatives of the co-signatories of the memorandum, to draw up an action plan.

The signing of the memorandum was scheduled for Thursday evening.

More medical news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Medicine Wholesalers Announce Selective Suspension of Drug Deliveries

ZAGREB, July 12, 2019 - The coordinating body of pharmaceutical wholesalers at the Croatian Employers' Association (HUP) announced on Friday they were beginning a selective suspension of deliveries of drugs and medical supplies to hospitals after their debts had reached 2.6 billion kuna.

Representatives of pharmaceutical wholesalers warned at a press conference that the hospitals' debt was increasing by 150 million kuna every month and, because the government was ignoring their warnings, they would write to the European Commission.

They stressed that none of the hospitals was paying its obligations within the statutory deadline of 60 days, adding that they had borrowed an additional 1 billion kuna to ensure regular drug supplies to the hospitals.

"We are beginning a selective suspension of drug supplies to individual hospitals, and pharmaceutical wholesalers will do this at their discretion," the head of the coordinating body, Ivan Klobučar, said.

He said that some of the pharmaceutical wholesalers would take legal action against the hospitals in Dubrovnik, Sisak and Vinkovci, which are over 1,000 days late in paying their debts.

"The promise by Health Minister Milan Kujundžić about the payment of 200 million kuna for the hospitals' debts has been fulfilled, but the pharmaceutical wholesalers have received only 130 million kuna, which is eight percent of the total debt of 2.6 billion kuna," Klobučar said, adding that he did know where the remaining 70 million ended up.

The debt is expected to reach 3.6 billion kuna by the end of the year, with an average payment period of 590 days. Klobučar said that five hospitals were over 800 days late in paying their debts, and three were over 1,000 days late.

As a short-term solution, pharmaceutical wholesalers are proposing that 50 percent of the debt, or 1.3 billion kuna, be settled immediately, while as a medium-term solution they are proposing the preparation of an acceptable debt payment schedule to reduce the payment time to the agreed 260 days by the end of the year. They say that the problem of the hospitals' insolvency and cost-ineffectiveness should not affect drug deliveries because they accounted for barely 20 percent of total costs in the health budget.

The chairman of the governing council of the Croatian Health Insurance Fund (HZZO), Drago Prgomet, on Friday commented on the announcement by pharmaceutical wholesalers that they would begin a selective suspension of deliveries of drugs and medical supplies to hospitals over their debts.

"Croatia has never been left without drugs, hospitals have never been left without drugs and they will not be left without them now," Prgomet said in response to questions from the press.

Asked how the hospitals intended to resolve this problem, he said that they would do it as they had done before - by paying their debts. "We are aware of the debts that we have. The debts will be paid off, but there will be no suspension of drug deliveries. The citizens need not worry. The Croatian citizens have never been left without drugs and they will not be left without drugs now or in the future."

Prgomet said that pharmaceutical wholesalers were making very good profits in Croatia and would not take legal action. Asked if this meant that they were earning enough regardless of the debts owed to them, he said that none of them had failed so far.

More medical news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Union Proposes Supplementary Health Insurance Census in Line with Poverty Threshold

ZAGREB, June 14, 2019 - The Croatian Pensioners Union on Friday asked Finance Minister Zdravko Marić and Health Minister Milan Kujundžić to raise the supplementary health insurance census to 2,321 kuna, which is the Croatian poverty threshold for a single pensioner.

The union proposes that the income census be determined every year in line with the poverty threshold which the national statistical office determines every year.

The union says in a press release that pensions will soon be indexed for the second time this year and that the 3.13% increase of the lowest pensions could result in about 10,000 pensioners losing the right to free health insurance.

With the last indexation, more than 3,000 pensioners received 40-50 kuna higher pensions, losing free supplementary health insurance, as a result of which they had to start paying 70 kuna a month, the union says, adding that now 250,000 of those with the lowest pensions are at risk of losing supplementary health insurance.

The income census has not been changed since 2004, which means that everyone whose income per family member exceeds 1,516 kuna, as well as single pensioners with incomes exceeding 1,939 kuna, will lose that right.

About 173,000 pensioners currently exercise the right to free supplementary health insurance. Since 2012, the number of supplementary health insurance policies paid by the state has dropped from 740,000 to 480,000, the union says.

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

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Small Protest Against Mandatory Vaccination Held in Split

ZAGREB, June 9, 2019 - A peaceful anti-vaccination protest was held in Split to mark International Vaccine Injury Awareness Day, with protesters saying that the procedure should not be mandatory but based on informed consent.

The protest was organised by the Croatian Association of Parents and Activists (HURA), and a special guest at the event was Andrew Wakefield, a controversial British doctor who has lost his medical licence and who opposes vaccination, claiming it causes autism.

Speakers at the protest stood up for Wakefield, claiming that he was exposed to a media lynching campaign.

The protesters wore T-shirts and carried banners with messages warning about the consequences of vaccination such as "Report side effects", "Mom and dad decide", "Stop the import of unsuitable vaccines", "These are our children", and "Leukaemia means death".

HURA president Alma Demirović said that vaccination is mandatory in Croatia, which violates some of the fundamental human rights, notably "to right to obtain full information on vaccination." Vacines cannot be mandatory and noncompliance cannot be punished with discrimination, fines and other types of human rights violation, said Demirović.

She stressed that HURA was not advocating an end to get vaccinations but rather that it be done on the basis of a recommendation.

Wakefield said that Croatian citizens had to have control over their and their children's bodies and that they should demand full informed consent with regard to vaccination.

Another speaker at the protest, doctor Lidija Gajski said Wakefield had been exposed to a media lynching campaign.

"The medical community is calling for the boycott of today's protest. Science journalists have stood up against it. Andrew Wakefield's visit was announced by almost all media outlets," said Gajski, describing media reports as a lynching campaign aimed at distorting the truth.

The anti-vaccination gathering in Split was also attended by member of parliament Ivan Pernar, who recently left his Živi Zid party, and who told reporters that he came to support parents in their right to choose whether or not to have their children vaccinated.

"Vaccination should be voluntary and it will be voluntary when the parliamentary majority is made up of politicians who advocate voluntary vaccination," Pernar said, calling on voters to support such politicians.

The Croatian Medical Chamber, the Croatian Medical Association and members of the Croatian Journalists Association who are science journalists recently expressed concern about Wakefield's visit to Split, noting that vaccination was one of the most important medical achievements of modern times and one of the safest medical interventions.

More news about the issue can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Emergencies from Neretva River Valley to Be Handled by Mostar Hospital

ZAGREB, June 5, 2019 - Patients from the Neretva River valley and the area of Vrgorac - heart attack and stroke patients, multiple trauma patients and seriously ill children - will soon be able to seek medical care at the Mostar University Hospital.

An agreement to that effect was signed in Zagreb on Wednesday by Croatian Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, Bosnia and Herzegovina Federation entity Health Minister Vjekoslav Mandić and Mostar University Hospital head Ante Kvesić.

"Most of the hospitals in Croatia are an hour-drive away from patients' place of residence and due to historical circumstances and the proximity of the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, people who live in the Neretva River valley do not have the same status as other citizens in cases of serious illness, multiple trauma and heart attack and stroke. This agreement makes their status equal to that of other Croatian citizens," Kujundžić said.

Emergency cases from the Neretva River valley will be treated at the Mostar hospital, which is open 24 hours a day, has good results and offers procedures that guarantee safety and quality, Kujundžić added.

Mostar University Hospital head Mandić said that the hospital had the necessary capacity to take in patients from the Neretva River valley in Croatia, who, he said, had gravitated to that medical institution before 1991.

More medical news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Obesity in Croatia Most Likely in Rural Areas

ZAGREB, May 20, 2019 - An international survey on body-mass index trends among adults in urban and rural areas, which also involved Croatian experts, shows that the likelihood of obesity in Croatian rural areas is 44% higher for men and 40% higher for women, the Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) said.

The survey was conducted by the London-based Imperial College and its results were published on May 9 in the international science journal "Nature". The data analysed referred to the height and weight of more than 112 million adults from urban and rural areas in 200 countries in the period from 1985 to 2017.

The survey shows that in the period from 1985 and 2017, the body mass index (BMI) grew on average by 2 kilograms in women and by 2.2 kilograms in men, namely, people covered by the survey had an extra 5-6 kilograms of body mass.

More than half the global increase in obesity in the 33-year period can be ascribed to the growth of BMI in rural areas.

In some low and medium-income countries, rural areas contributed to the total BMI increase with 80%. Since 1985 the average BMI in rural areas has grown by 2.1 kilograms among both men and women, while in urban areas the average BMI in women has grown by 1.3 kilograms and in men by 1.6 kilograms.

This points to astonishing changes that have happened in the last three decades. In more than three-fourths of the surveyed countries, women and men who lived in urban areas in 1985 had a higher BMI than those living in rural areas and over time that difference has changed or has even been reversed in a large number of countries.

In the high-income countries, the increase in the body mass in rural areas was evident especially among women, and experts attribute this to shortcomings of life outside urban areas - a lower income and lower level of education, limited availability and higher prices of healthy food products, and fewer sports and recreational facilities.

In the period from 1985 to 2017, rural areas in lower and medium-income countries saw an increase in income, improvement of infrastructure, development of agricultural equipment and an increase in the number of cars, which has resulted in less energy consumption but also greater consumption of processed food products and products of lower quality due to lack of adequate legislation. These factors contribute to a faster increase in BMI in rural areas.

In the 1985-2017 period, BMI dropped mildly among women in 12 countries in Europe - Greece, Spain, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Italy, Portugal, Serbia, France and Malta - and in Asia Pacific - Nauru, Singapore and Japan. Conversely, BMI among women grew by 5 kilograms in Egypt and Honduras. BMI grew in all countries, and the highest increase, of more than 3.1 kilograms, was reported in Saint Lucia, Bahrain, Peru, China, the Dominican Republic and the USA.

Women living in the rural areas of Central and East Europe had, on average, a body mass that was around one kilogram higher than that of women in urban areas, and the increase was reported in Belarus, the Czech Republic and Latvia. That difference has remained almost unchanged since 1985.

In men from rural areas, the greatest difference was recorded in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Australia, Austria and the USA. Men in rural areas had a BMI that was around 0.35 kg higher than that of men in urban areas.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Solution for Hospital Debts Coming Next Week?

ZAGREB, May 16, 2019 - A solution is expected in a week regarding the servicing of a part of hospital debts to wholesale drug suppliers, which have increased to HRK 2.6 billion, putting into question the delivery of drugs and medical material to hospitals whose payment deadlines exceed three years, Health Minister Milan Kujundžić and Croatian Employers Association (HUP) representatives said on Thursday.

The president of HUP's wholesale drug suppliers, Ivan Klobučar, said suppliers demanded that the state pay 50% of the debt, but the actual amount would be known in a week's time.

He was speaking to the press after a meeting with Kujundžić, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Finance Minister Zdravko Marić.

Klobučar said Plenković "promised us the first part of some solution in seven days, but we don't have... any numbers yet. We expect them to offer us some sort of solution in agreement with the Croatian Health Insurance Fund (HZZO)."

He said payment deadlines set by hospitals were untenable, adding that general hospitals in Dubrovnik, Sisak and Vinkovci were 1,000 days behind, although, under the law, they should be paid in 60 days.

Kujundžić said urgent solutions to the debt must be found but that the Health Ministry did not have the 1.3 billion kuna wanted by wholesale drug suppliers. The money will be found together with the government and the HZZO, which expects a 2 billion kuna revenue increase this year, he added.

HUP president Davor Majetić welcomed the meeting with the prime minister, saying he was informed of the extent of the problem. "We have to start solving this because we are talking about citizens' health. We hope that next week we'll have concrete proposals for short- and long-term solutions to the problem."

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

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Zagreb Medical Team Successfully Separates Conjoined Twins

ZAGREB, May 15, 2019 - Doctors at the University Hospital Centre (KBC) Zagreb, who have successfully separated conjoined twins in a complex medical procedure, said on Wednesday that the baby girls were recovering well and that their lives were not in danger.

Preparations for the surgery lasted six weeks and were secret to avoid pressure on the operating team. The 13-hour operation to separate the twins, who were joined at their breast-bone and part of the abdomen, was headed by Tomislav Luetić, chief of the KBC Zagreb's Department of Pediatric Surgery.

The procedure, which included one of the longest times a patient has been under anaesthesia in Croatia, was performed by a team of seven surgeons and seven anaesthesiologists, with 25 people in the operating room and 30 in the intensive care unit.

The babies, born two months before term, have been in the intensive care unit for four months.

"The first surgery was followed by a number of other operations. They all went more or less well and now, two and a half months after the surgery, the girls are in very good condition and we hope they will be better with every new day," Luetić said, adding that more corrective surgery procedures were planned.

After the surgery, doctors monitored if the liver of each baby functioned on its own, if the intestines could take in normal food and whether it would be sufficient for the babies' growth and development, and they also watched out for infections.

Infections are the biggest problem in small babies, especially in cases like this one, because the abdominal wall of both babies was reconstructed using prosthetic material, which is always sensitive to infection.

The head of the Surgery Department, Krešimir Bulić, said that he made simulations to reconstruct what needed to be reconstructed since after their separation each baby was left without 30% of the abdominal wall.

KBC Zagreb director Ante Ćorušić said that many had tried to talk him into referring the case to colleagues abroad but that he knew that there were no clinics specialising in conjoined twin surgeries and that he trusted his staff.

This is the second case in the world with such a complex clinical diagnosis and the first one where both twins have survived.

More medical news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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