Doctors Close Doors

Artykuł pochodzi z pisma "New Warsaw Express"

Poland's doctors celebrated the New Year by pushing the country's health system into a full-scale crisis, closing hundreds of surgeries in the south and west of the country this week in protest against their budgets for 2004. Patients in Poznań, Zielona Góra and other major cities spent the opening days of the year wandering the streets to find basic medical care for small children, adults and pensioners alike. Negotiations between Health Minister Leszek Sikorski and doctors' representatives finally reached a positive conclusion mid-week. But the chaos that has filled TV screens and daily papers this week only deepens the sense of crisis in Poland's health system.
The latest row relates to the contracts which doctors sign with regional health funds for the provision of care. The doctors are protesting at the level of funding provided under the agreements, but in practice this has led to dispute over the specifications of the services they are obliged to carry out. Among the key points is a ministry requirement that primary-care doctors provide 24-hour oncall services.
With the talks on the issue running into the New Year, most practices did not sign new agreements and closed their doors at the end of December.
After marathon negotiations lasting through the weekend and much of Monday night, Sikorski and doctors' representatives finally came to an agreement on Tuesday. The thorny question, however, remained where the additional cash to pay for the compromise would come from.
"I will be pulling in funds from wherever I can," Sikorski told reporters. The National Health Fund has only PLN 100m in reserves. The national health system has been lurching from one crisis to another since the arrival in power of the Democratic Left Alliance government two years ago.
Controversial minister Mariusz Łapiński presided over a series of scandals involving allegations of administrative incompetence, funding corruption and bungled drug certification before finally being ousted early last year. The system he left behind has almost PLN 10 billion in debts and many hospitals and clinics are effectively insolvent. Ministers have raised health contributions made by all taxpayers by 0.25 percent and current reforms plan to swap debt for bonds and allow hospitals to go bankrupt, but standards remain well below those in western systems.


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