19:39 / 11.03.2023.

Author: Katja Miličić

Health Minister Beroš announces reforms as doctors prepare to protest

Health Minister Vili Beroš

Health Minister Vili Beroš

Foto: Luka Stanzl / PIXSELL

Health Minister Vili Beroš expressed the Government's determination to reform the health care system in an interview on Croatian Radio on Saturday as a major protest by doctors draws closer. 

The Government’s planned reforms cover many areas including streamlining costs and reducing the system's massive debt. However, doctors are planning a massive protest next weekend to demand better pay and better working conditions. They have not ruled out a strike if there is no progress on their demands.

Beroš plans to present a set of new public health screening programs next Friday. He says the entire reform process aims to place the patient in the center.

"We plan to lift access barriers to primary health care, to emergency care - putting the patient first,” he told Croatian Radio.

Critics have pointed out that the current government has little more than a year left in its mandate to carry out these reforms.

"Time is running out. All of the stakeholders are underscoring this but this government is determined to reform the health care system,” said Beroš.

The minister expressed disappointment that some of his colleagues - medical professionals - are denying that any progress has been made. He also slammed these critics for complaining about their salaries.

"More than 2 thousand 400 doctors in Croatia have higher salaries than the prime minister, not to mention the number of doctors who have a higher salary than I do," he said.

While Beroš believes things are moving forward, medical professionals' organizations claim the system is collapsing. A recent survey by the Croatian Medical Chamber found that a large majority of doctors were unhappy with their jobs. This was one of the arguments used by the head of the Chamber, Krešimir Luetić, for why doctors were planning to protest next weekend.

"When thousands of doctors tell you in a survey that they are unhappy with their current status, their current position, then you know you should have started working to solve the problem yesterday and not left it for tomorrow,” Luetić said.

When announcing the protest last month, the head of the Doctors' Union Renata Čulinović Čaić said the situation had boiled over and action was necessary.

"We have to do something for Croatian patients because the system breaking down. And we also have to do something for Croatian doctors," she said.

The protest is scheduled for March 18 in St. Mark's Square, the seat of government.

At least four major medical professionals' organizations have said they will participate. They are also inviting the public to join them. Furthermore, these organizations say that the possibility of a strike will depend on the actions of the Health Ministry and the Government.

Asked if he were not minister, would he take part in the protest, Beroš, who is a medical doctor, said he would not because he does not believe it will help solve any of the system's problems.

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