Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Concern Grows about Health Sector Debt

ZAGREB, May 15, 2019 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić on Wednesday said that it is obvious that the problem of the health sector debt cannot be resolved only on the revenue side of the health budget but that it requires intervention on the expenditure side too.

Speaking ahead of Thursday's meeting with wholesale pharmaceutical companies convened to discuss hospital debts for delivered medicines, Marić recalled that the Finance Ministry had already on several occasions made a contribution through extraordinary financial injections and by increasing the budget of the Croatian Health Insurance Institute by increasing health contributions on wages.

"The Ministry of Finance will always be a constructive partner in finding systematic solutions. We clearly showed our intentions on three occasions and participated on the revenue side. However, it is evident and being confirmed that the problem cannot be resolved only the revenue side but that it requires intervention on the cost side of the health budget," Marić told reporters.

He added that according to the latest data, the health sector's debts amount to more than seven billion kuna and that some hospitals have very long deadlines for payments.

Marić underscored that the problem of the health sector's debts and payment deadlines have not emerged overnight and need to be observed in the long term, adding that he is convinced that the health sector has certain recommendations and solutions.

"The system needs to be observed as a whole. The financial aspect, the debts and payment deadlines cannot be simply brushed off, and tomorrow, we will discuss that and see whether we can work something out," Marić said.

He added that compared with other countries, Croatia has a fairly high level of accessibility to health services and a very good and quality health service.

"The best confirmation and evidence of how good our doctors, nurses and medical staff are is the fact that they are quite sought after throughout the European Union," he claimed and stressed that an additional problem is how to keep highly qualified staff in the country.

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

Monday, 13 May 2019

Supplemental Health Insurance Price Increase Not Being Considered for Now

ZAGREB, May 13, 2019 - Health Minister Milan Kujundžić on Sunday again warned about insufficient funds in healthcare, which is partly why medical staff are leaving Croatia, saying that for now a price increase of supplemental health insurance was not being considered but that outlays for healthcare must increase.

"We as a nation must decide if we want to keep doctors and nurses, superior medicine and new drugs. We must realise that they entail new costs," he said on Nova TV.

The incumbent government inherited the health sector's debt of 8 billion kuna and it has not increased it, but with outlays of 750 euro per capita, treatment cannot be as good as in countries which set aside 5,000 euro per capita, Kujundžić said.

He reiterated that the fastest effect would be achieved by raising excise taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, which Finance Minister Zdravko Marić has opposed so far.

Speaking of hospitals' debt to drug suppliers, which has reached 2.6 billion kuna, Kujundžić said a solution would be found either at state budget or Croatian Health Insurance Fund level.

The minister said that despite the financial problems, many things in Croatia's healthcare worked.

As for the large number of doctors and nurses leaving Croatia, he said the number of residencies had tripled over the past two years. This government has "a sound human resources policy and a significant number of physicians who left are coming back to Croatia."

Kujundžić said one should keep in mind that 85% of hospital revenues went on salaries. "It's difficult to raise salaries without stopping drug purchases," he said, adding the solution was in higher outlays for healthcare.

More healthcare news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Zagreb Hospital Obtains State-of-the-Art Gamma Knife Device

ZAGREB, May 8, 2019 - A new Gamma Knife device valued at 45 million kuna was officially presented on Tuesday at the University Hospital Centre Zagreb (KBC), which is a huge technological step forward in radiosurgery in this part of Europe.

This "invisible knife" quickly and painlessly treats pathological processes in the brain. The nearest similar apparatus can be found in Vienna or northern Italy or in Moscow to the east, it was said at the presentation.

"We used to conduct 380 gamma knife procedures a year. With this piece of equipment, we will probably achieve 700 procedures a year," the head of the KBC Zagreb neurology department, Zdravko Heinrich, said.

Gramma Knife treatment is covered by Croatia's Health Insurance Institute (HZZO) while patients referred from neighbouring countries pay the full price. "A lot of patients come from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo and we have signed contracts with those countries' health insurance agencies that pay the KBC the full commercial price," the hospital's director, Ante Ćorušić, said.

The KBC Zagreb received support from the Ministry of Health and EU funds to obtain the Gamma Knife and Health Minister Milan Kujundžić and Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac attended the ceremony, expressing their satisfaction with this huge step in Croatia's health system.

Eighty-five percent of the cost of the Gamma Knife was covered by an EU grant from the Competitiveness and Cohesion Fund from which 274 million kuna has been granted for highly sophisticated equipment for Croatian hospitals.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Croatia Focusing on Halting Brain Drain of Nurses

ZAGREB, May 5, 2019 - Nurses throughout the world are observing their week from 5 to 12 May, and Croatia has joined in the campaign to highlight the importance of the role of nurses and medical technicians in promoting health for all.

The leader of the Croatian National Nursing Association, Adriano Friganović, has issued a press release on the occasion of the start of the International Nursing Week, urging the authorities to make sure that Croatia can follow the example of developed European Union member-states and thus prevent the brain drain of nurses and med techs.

"Croatia has 38,000 nurses and medical technicians, and although they are the largest group of healthcare providers in the system, their status is not satisfactory," reads the press release.

Croatia is experiencing the nursing shortage, and an estimated additional 12,000 nursing professionals are needed in the system, according to the press release.

Friganović also writes about violence to which nurses are being exposed in healthcare institutions.

The Health Ministry in cooperation with nursing professionals' institutions is supposed to create a positive climate and halt the brain drain.

One of the steps is to recognise the qualifications the nursing technicians have acquired, he added.

International Nursing Day is celebrated around the world every May 12, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth. The International Council of Nursing commemorates this important day each year with the production and distribution of the International Nursing Day (IND) resources and evidence. This year the main theme is "Nurses - Voice to Lead: Health for All".

More medical news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Despite Brexit, Croatian Physicians Invited to Move to UK

Permanent contracts, annual salaries ranging from 70,000 to 90,000 pounds, free English language courses, assistance with resettlement and finding a new home, kindergarten, school, bank account opening... – this is the offer which the Paragona agency from Poland has given to Croatian family doctors, inviting them to move to Great Britain despite Brexit, reports Večernji List on April 26, 2019.

They have been invited by the British National Health Service (NHS), the key health institution in the country, which has hired the Polish agency to help them bring family physicians from EU countries.

It has been known for years that Britain, as well as a number of other Western countries, does not have enough physicians. NHS's solution is to import doctors from other countries, which is the reason why they have launched this last drive to bring in family physicians. The number of physicians from all EU countries who can come and compete for jobs is not limited.

The contest will be open permanently until the need for the medical staff is met. In its statement, the NHS says that, regardless of Brexit, there will still be a need for excellent family physicians from Europe. In order to promote the competition and its conditions, the Polish agency’s representatives will visit Croatia next month, says Vikica Krolo, president of the Croatian Family Medicine Coordination (KOHOM).

“KOHOM wants as many of our physicians as possible to stay here, but this sounds very appealing, and it is an opportunity for people to go to a well-organised state for a well-paid job. We concessionaires are more or less retiring in five to ten years, so I am not interested, but I know how this sounds to younger doctors. People have been informed, they have received invitations, which have been shared on social networks and forums. We educate physicians who then leave to work in other countries. The world is open, and this call demonstrates it,” says Krolo, who is a family physician herself, adding that the number of her colleagues has been decreasing in the last few years and is now around 2,100.

The work of family physicians in the UK differs from the Croatian system. The key difference is in diagnosis segment and treatment of all age groups, as well as the fact that nurses do some of the medical jobs which are done exclusively by doctors in many other European countries.

Family medicine offices in Great Britain are equipped for smaller surgeries, which are usually done in hospitals in other European countries, including Croatia. Referrals to specialists are very strictly limited to cases when this is a real need because a family physician does not have the necessary equipment or the patient has a serious condition. Family doctors in Great Britain also deal with the health of children and mothers, prevention and rehabilitation. “We would all be happy to do this as well,” adds Krolo.

The agency hired for recruiting physicians has already successfully completed a pilot project and has placed family physicians from Europe to various parts of the United Kingdom.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Ivana Rimac Lesički).

More medical news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Medical Treatment of Mila Rončević in USA Progressing Better Than Expected

More than 28 million kuna were collected in mass fundraisers in March for the treatment of Mila Rončević, a two-year-old girl suffering from a rare type of leukaemia. In early April, she and her parents travelled to Philadelphia to start the treatment. And now, her father Marin Rončević reported that the treatment was progressing exceptionally well, reports on April 23, 2019.

“The MRD, the percentage of leukaemic blasts in the bone marrow, is less than 0.1%. What is important is that no one expected such a response to treatment. Everything under 10% would be good, below 5% great, and this is incredible. This is the power of prayer and love of hundreds of thousands of people who support the best children's doctors,” said Marin.

Before starting treatment, the MRD was at 88 per cent, then 50 per cent, and now only 0.1 per cent. Mila's condition is getting better and what follows is a bone marrow transplantation. “This is better than any prognosis, but we still have a long way to go. Transplantation is dangerous, and the illness can find a new route in the next five years, but this is beyond all expectations and is a great result after only half the initial cycle. Mila looks great, and her condition is good,” said the father.

On Tuesday, the girl turned two. Surrounded by her mother, father and the medical team, Mila has been in the children's hospital in Philadelphia since April 3. The payments and donations in the humanitarian drive for Mila far exceeded the amount needed for treatment costs. More than 37 million kuna was collected.

“As I have already said, we do not have time or knowledge to run such a fund, but we will not leave this money to the politicians. Politicians can only give, as I have already proposed, five lipa per a litre of gasoline sold to pay into the fund for sick children. But politicians, just like us, must not manage this money. There should be a team of medical and other experts who are in a position to assess medical records and the needs of individuals in the shortest possible time,” he wrote.

Marin Rončević has also written that state institutions do not have, do not know or do not want to provide answers to existing problems, although solutions do exist and are available. “There is another girl who is playing the lottery of life, waiting whether a drug is going to be approved in time. The price of the drug is unknown to almost anyone. An additional paradox is that the same drug was approved for another girl,” Rončević noted.

Translated from (reported by Anita Anić-Božić, Andro Bernardić).

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Agreement Signed on Construction of Children's Hospital

ZAGREB, April 16, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić on Monday signed a framework agreement on cooperation in preparing the project "Building the national children's hospital," which is the first step in implementing the project for the construction of the hospital in Zagreb's Blato neighbourhood.

The government-sponsored project is worth 42.3 million kuna, of which 85% will be financed by the European Regional Development Fund. The rest of the funds will be secured from the state and Zagreb city budgets.

The new children's hospital will also provide care in gynaecology and obstetrics.

After signing the framework agreement, Plenković said this strategic government project was aimed at providing the youngest patients with the best possible care.

Health Minister Milan Kujundžić said the new national children's hospital would provide all forms of treatment of children's diseases in one place.

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

Sunday, 7 April 2019

National Children Hospital Delayed Once Again?

We will not wait for European funds. The new National Children's Hospital will be built with funds from the state budget “because sick children cannot wait.” This was said last year by Minister of Health Milan Kujundžić, announcing that the construction works in the Blato district in Zagreb will start this year, reports Večernji List on April 7, 2019.

However, it is clear that there will be no construction works this year and that the sick children will indeed have to wait, probably for at least a decade. That can be seen in the documents which will be signed by the state and the city authorities on April 15. The documents define the co-operation in the development of the future children's hospital. The first stage includes preparation of all necessary documentation in order for the construction to begin at all.

The paperwork will cost 42.3 million kuna, of which the City of Zagreb is responsible for covering 26 million and the Ministry of Health 16.3 million kuna. They will actually spend considerably less, since 85 per cent of the cost, or a total of 40 million kuna, has been granted by the European Union funds, so the city will allocate for the preparatory works only four million and the Ministry 2.4 million kuna. The deadline for all the documents to be ready is 57 months starting from last March.

In other words, the deadline is December 2022, while the money for the hospital construction itself would be withdrawn from European funds "in the next programming period," which will last from 2021 to 2027.

One of the documents expected is a study which will show whether the new hospital should be located in an entirely new building, or whether the never-finished University Hospital located at the site could be used for this purpose. Through the decades, 157 million euro has been invested in the complex of the university hospital which was never completed. In the 1980s, all citizens of Zagreb paid 1.5 per cent of their personal income for the university hospital. By 1992, about 50 per cent of the building was completed, and then everything stopped. The current owner of the site is the City of Zagreb.

The construction of the children’s hospital would cost around 130 million euro.

There are funding problems with another major city project, the new Sljeme cableway which is currently being constructed. The city will reportedly transfer the project to the ZET public transport company, and it that way “find” the funds missing for its completion. The project is supposed to be completed by the City Day next year, but the budget includes just 80 million kuna for the cableway, which covers just one-fifth of its total cost. The plan is to secure additional funds with a loan which should be taken out by ZET.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Mateja Šobak).

More Zagreb news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 5 April 2019

Agreements Signed for Provision of Emergency Medical Service by Speed Boats

ZAGREB, April 5, 2019 - Agreements granting the Health Ministry a total of 45 million kuna from EU funds for the purchase of six speed boats for the provision of emergency medical aid along the Adriatic and twelve biochemical blood analysers for emergency diagnosis on the islands, were signed at the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds on Friday.

The funds will be used to procure speed boats, ensure berths in home ports and purchase blood analysers that can quickly determine whether a patient needs to be transferred to a hospital on the mainland, it was said at the signing ceremony.

The boats will be stationed on the islands of Mali Lošinj and Rab, in Zadar, Šibenik, Supetar and Dubrovnik and will serve all inhabited islands, with a total population of 122,000, and visitors during the tourist season.

The agreements were signed by Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac and the head of the Central Finance and Contracting Agency, Tomislav Petrić.

The speed boats and blood analysers will significantly improve emergency treatment of patients on the islands and facilitate the work of physicians in establishing a diagnosis and deciding on the condition of patients, Minister Kujundžić said and added that he expects the boats to be operational in two years’ time while the analysers could already be available at the start of this year's tourism season.

Minister Žalac expressed her satisfaction that the entire amount of 45 million kuna will be secured from the Competitiveness and Cohesion operational programme, noting that the number of agreements for European funding for healthcare infrastructure had accelerated this year and last.

"Together with the Health Ministry, we have advertised six of the planned calls for bids and contracted 51 projects amounting to 1.7 billion kuna, which is 85% of the envelope envisaged for the health sector in this financial period. We expect to contract the remaining 15% of the healthcare allocation by the end of the year," Žalac said.

Considering that emergency medical services have to be available to all citizens, Žalac announced the possibility of establishing a helicopter emergency medical service in the next financial period which would complement today's agreements and would facilitate the emergency medical care of patients on the islands.

More news about EU funds can be found in the Business section

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.

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