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Two Years Of The Current Government – Public Healthcare Is Collapsing, Flood Reconstruction Is Not Moving Ahead, There Is No Long-Term Care, And The Government Is Satisfied

Two years have passed since the current convocation of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia met for its inaugural session, and on the 1st of June, two years will have passed since the Golob government took office. It had pompously promised the people of Slovenia a whole series of reforms to wash away all the problems and improve people’s everyday lives, but the citizens, along with the economy, are drowning in taxes rather than solutions.

Although people’s disappointment with what they have seen is reflected in opinion polls, where a trend of distrust in the government’s work can be observed, Borut Sajovic, leader of the parliamentary group of the ruling Freedom Movement party (Gibanje Svoboda) apparently believes that their MPs have gained political experience in the meantime and, in spite of the problems, have been able to find solutions. However, the leader of the Social Democrats (Socialni demokrati – SD) parliamentary group, Meira Hot, assessed that the coalition still has a lot of work to do, especially in the areas of housing affordability, the high cost of living, pension and wage reform, and healthcare. In contrast, Sajovic, according to the Slovenian Press Agency (STA), said that he was “satisfied and optimistic about the government coalition’s progress so far on the biggest challenges, including long-term care, healthcare and flood reconstruction.”

Public healthcare is collapsing

It is probably not at all clear to many where Sajovic gets such satisfaction and optimism from – especially in the areas he has highlighted. We are witnessing the longest-lasting healthcare strike in independent Slovenia, triggered by the government side itself due to not keeping the commitment it made. Doctors are also fed up with poor working conditions, which are getting worse, because the government side is not seeking advice from those who know the health sector best, in order to design a reform that will ultimately benefit everyone, both health professionals and patients. According to Fides – the trade union of doctors and dentists of Slovenia, it is totally unacceptable that in our country, “the definition of public healthcare is based solely on the willingness of doctors and other healthcare workers to work dozens of hours of overtime every week.”

During the strike, doctors sent several letters to the public with worrying content. Despite this and the fact that 22,600 children and adolescents do not have a personal doctor and 44 schools do not have a designated school doctor, there seems to be a belief that the work is going well. Some people even decide to calmly go on a cruise without a guilty conscience, while the renovation of the country’s largest hospital is in a state of chaos. Namely, demolition of what has just been renovated has recently been ordered, as they have not even provided earthquake protection, and the medical staff are facing difficult conditions. “There are no beds, partly because of the construction works, but many wards are closed because of a shortage of nurses. Nobody writes about it… And then we have all the patients on our conscience that we can’t admit. It’s almost as if we are doing war triage,” one doctor described the situation.

Post-flood reconstruction is proceeding at a snail’s pace

We saw very clearly just how “successful” the coalition is in post-flood reconstruction on the television show “Tarča” (“Target”), which aired in April. “No, it won’t take years; it will take a couple of months,” Prime Minister Robert Golob promised in relation to the August floods, but it turns out that today, most people don’t even know whether they will have to move or not. Many are frustrated by the slowness of the process, because shortly after the tragedy, they found a plot of land to move to, but did not receive a response to any of their questions regarding the potential move. And those who know that they will not have to move are faced with the uncertainty of not knowing what can be rebuilt with the money they have received. On the 24th of April, the government finally managed to adopt decisions on the removal of 20 buildings in the municipalities of Ljubno and Luče, but the fact is that at this rate, they will undoubtedly not run out of work any time soon.

Rights linked to long-term care are still not enforceable

As the leader of the Freedom Movement party’s parliamentary group also highlighted the regulation of long-term care, it is important to note in this context that the Long-Term Care Act, as envisioned by the coalition, is still not working. The Centres for Social Work have recently pointed out that the entitlement to first long-term care, which was due to come into force in the new year, is still not enforceable because the information system for deciding on new applications is not working. The leader of the parliamentary group of the coalition Left party (Levica), Matej Tašner Vatovec, admitted that they are having difficulties implementing the law. He said he understood those who were critical of it, but he also believed that the ministry, led by a minister from his own party, “will make it possible for users to start enjoying the rights under the law soon.” He did not, of course, clarify when this would happen – and perhaps that is for the best, since the coalition has so far proved unable to meet the deadlines it sets.

Sajovic said that “they have not been able to highlight all the good stories in public enough.” He seemed to take comfort in this, as there has really been zero enthusiasm shown by the public for what they have done so far – for example, the pay cut for all employees and the compulsory recording of working hours, which is not compulsory for officials, even though they have forgotten that they will not remain in such high positions for their entire lives. Among other things, he also criticised the request of the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia to set up a commission of inquiry to look into the operations of the companies Gen-I and Star Solar and the financing of the Freedom Movement party. In contrast, he does not find it objectionable that commissions investigate the opposition, even though in all normal countries, it is logical that it is the commissions of inquiry that investigate the ruling party. This is Slovenia in the time of Freedom.

While MP Hot warned that “too few legislative proposals are dealt with under the ordinary procedure and too many under the abbreviated and urgent procedure,” the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, Urška Klakočar Zupančič, believes that the number of bills which were adopted under the urgent procedures “was quite appropriate, as we were faced with an energy crisis, the rising costs of living, and also a major natural catastrophe.” Given that the Radio-Television Slovenia Act, for example, was adopted under the urgent procedure, it probably goes without saying how far-fetched it is to think that such actions are entirely appropriate. The fact is that the conditions for adopting a law under the urgent procedure are clearly laid down. The urgent procedure is admissible where the priority is to remedy the consequences of a natural disaster, to safeguard interests relating to national security or defence, or to prevent irreparable consequences for the functioning of the State.

The New Slovenia party (Nova Slovenija – NSi) has also pointed out that the government coalition has been doing the wrong things. “We have had to correct many things, the procedure is often broken, and when we look at it, there is no effect on the ground, people are not happy,” said the leader of the NSi parliamentary group, Janez Cigler Kralj. The largest opposition party – Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS), believes that the government and the coalition have “done a lot of bad for the country and very little or almost nothing good” in their two years in office. MP Jelka Godec, leader of the SDS party’s parliamentary group, stressed that “the government is not fulfilling the promises it made and the commitments it signed, and we are witnessing arbitrary action.” In her opinion, “the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia has reached its lowest point ever, in terms of democratic decision-making, and the opposition is often prevented from acting.” By announcing various measures, the government is, in its own way, diverting attention from the most difficult areas. On all important issues, “such as changes in healthcare, changes in the salary system, tax policy, economic growth,” the coalition is supposed to consult the opposition. “When we were part of the government, we always offered partnerships or talks with the opposition. In this government, that is not the case – it is full of empty words, they often promise that they will ask us for our opinion in the National Assembly, that they will send us things to review, but that never happens.”

Ž. N.

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