President of the opposition Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS), Janez Janša, commented on the current state of healthcare in Slovenia in a recent episode of the show “Odmevi” (Echoes). He said that “it is not all bad,” which was proven by Slovenia’s success during the Covid-19 crisis, when Slovenia did very well, especially compared to some other, richer countries. He believes that the current state of healthcare in Slovenia is not a coincidence but the result of the “many interests of those who are very much in favour of the mixing of public and private in the Slovenian healthcare system, and the lack of transparency in the procurement of services and, above all, medical equipment.” Janša pointed out two key problems in the Slovenian healthcare system, highlighting the Golob government’s abolition of the office that had been set up for reference pricing of medical devices, which served as an anti-corruption safeguard. This is now gone, and it suits those who see their own interests in this.
“The non-competitiveness of payment is one thing, but it’s quite another to have corruption in procurement. And here, despite Covid, our government took an important reform step. I am referring to the amendment of the law on public procurement in the healthcare sector and the creation of the office for reference pricing of medical devices, which created a system where purchasing prices could be compared. The first measure of the current government, however, which said it would do reform work in healthcare, was to abolish this law and this office so that we can no longer compare prices,” warned the former Prime Minister Janez Janša, who does not see the signing of the agreement on the healthcare reform as a success, because the content is not yet there, and predicts that problems will arise when the content will actually have to be revealed.
On the show “Odmevi,” Janez Janša began by saying that the situation we are witnessing now is quite serious. Especially since this is happening in “the richest Slovenian municipality, where there is a lot of money.” He believes that the causes for the bad situation in healthcare are the poor organisation of the institution of Healthcare Centres of Ljubljana itself, and also of the municipality, and he is surprised that someone is running a public institution and a private one at the same time. He said that while the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption sees no problem with this, it is “incompatible with common sense.”
Janša believes that Slovenian healthcare is not in such bad shape, which was also evident during the epidemic, but that the current situation is unparalleled, but not unsolvable. For this reason, the Slovenian Democratic Party has also called an extraordinary session to help the government with optimal solutions. In regard to the health reforms, he said that “poor salaries are a major problem, which is why excellent doctors are choosing to take up jobs elsewhere, where their work will actually be more appreciated,” and points out that “we must realise that we are no longer locked into Yugoslavia, where it was difficult to cross the border,” he made it clear. “Slovenian healthcare offers poor salaries, and therefore, Slovenia is simply non-competitive here, given that we are part of the European area,” he added.
He highlighted the non-competitive salaries and corruption in procurement as the two key problems in Slovenian healthcare, where the Janša government took major steps by establishing the office for reference pricing of medical devices, which served as the basis for the establishment of a price comparison system, which was then abolished by the current, Golob government. He attributes the current crisis to “the many interests of those who are very much in favour of the mixing of public and private in the Slovenian healthcare system, and the lack of transparency in the procurement of services and, above all, medical equipment – and this is a problem that simply has to be addressed”, said Janša, who added that while his government created order and made sure to cut costs during the epidemic, the problem of the salary system remains, and is now a key challenge.
The abolition of the law or of these solutions in healthcare procurement and of the office for reference pricing of medical devices is a reinforcement of corruption in the healthcare sector and a weakening of public healthcare. We will believe it when we see the steps being made for the betterment of the situation, Janša argued, noting that before the election, the Golob government was full of promises about how people would be able to “get to a specialist in 30 days,” but that after seven months in power, it is only now “drawing up a timeline and proclaiming it a success that all coalition MPs will sign off on this timeline.” Janša does not see the latter as a success, at least not until the content has also been made public, which we have seen very little of since Golob’s rise to power. That is why the SDS party has offered to help the current government with solutions – by holding an extraordinary session on healthcare, which will happen in the near future.
A clear dividing line must be drawn between public and private healthcare
“Now, if, say, a doctor with ten years of experience can get three times the salary in a neighbouring country, then that country will probably seem like a good option to them. Or worse. Slovenian entrepreneurs who have some capital in connection with doctors are setting up medical centres, in Savudrija, in Lipnica, in Klagenfurt and so on, and then the costs of the patient going there – this is a European regulation, which is a fact – are simply paid for by the Slovenian Health Insurance Institute,” he said, adding that a dividing line must be drawn between private and public healthcare.
The pay system is broken, and there are only two possible solutions
Janša and the host of the show also touched on the demands of the doctors’ trade union – FIDES, and other civil servants who are announcing strikes because of their pay, to which Janša responded that during his government’s term, they tried to regulate the pay disparities with one of the Anti-Corona Legislative Packages, by raising the salaries in individual pay grades, but the Constitutional Court later annulled this decision. He believes that the Golob government will not be successful in resolving this problem until it unlocks those pay grades. Janša believes that the government has broken the salary system by only meeting some of the demands of some parts of the public administration and that there are only two possible solutions, “one is to reset this system and return these ratios to somewhere where a consensus was reached, and the other thing that is possible here, which I advocate, is to maintain the reformed single salary system for the administrative part of the public sector.”
“This government has a very full state budget. I even think there was more than a billion euros more in revenue than we had planned. But it is true that in this year’s budget, they have now planned for 18.5 percent more spending. This is the biggest jump in spending, in planned spending, at any time in Slovenia’s history, and, of course, the Slovenian public finances will not be able to bear it. But I wish this government the best of luck in coping with these pressures because its first step was very unsuccessful,” Janša commented on the big spending planned in the state budget. Of course, the Fiscal Council has also been very clear in its opinion three times so far when it has assessed the current government’s rebalance of the budget as “unrealistic.”
The SDS party has never excluded anyone, they are always willing to cooperate
Janša explained that he and Golob had had a fairly substantive and, in his opinion, positive conversation at the time of the handover, but that promises had been made in relation to consultations, which the current government had not kept. He also referred to his meeting with President of the Republic Nataša Pirc Musar, which he said was mainly an exchange of views. He stressed the importance of involving others and stated that the SDS party is always willing to work with others and is ready to compromise – “when we were in the government, we offered a partnership for development to the opposition parties. As far as the running of the government is concerned: we had a government during the epidemic, which was a minority government most of the time, and thus our decisions had to be coordinated with the opposition as well. We adopted ten Anti-Corona Legislative Packages, we always had to negotiate separately, to compromise, to count MPs,” he said, stressing that what some people say about governing by decrees is wrong.
On Golob’s financial affair: the police won’t act, and neither will the judges, now that they have those 600 euros
At the end of the show, Janša also spoke about Golob’s Albanian financial affair, which has been causing quite a stir in the Balkan media lately and stressed that this reporting is probably due to some money transfers, about which documents have recently been published. He stressed that he regretted that such cases had not been the subject of a commission of inquiry of the Slovenian National Assembly, which should have investigated these suspicions. Judging by what we have seen and the attempts to cover up the matter, Janša believes that the police will not act, and the judges will not act either, as they were just given “those 600 euros.” “I would prefer if the other countries in the Balkans had not set up a commission of inquiry into matters that originated in Slovenia before we do,” Janša concluded.