On Friday, the government adopted a bill on urgent measures in the field of healthcare at an urgent correspondence meeting. The Government Communication Office explained that the law will help to improve the accessibility and efficiency of the healthcare system. The question is whether this will be achieved in a constitutional way. As Igor Muževič, a Slovenian doctor and trade unionist, warns, the law is extremely dangerous. “The central point is the forced deployment of all healthcare workers, including those who have no connection to the public network. Which means that you cannot even resign from the public sector, because even this does not protect you from the ‘invisible hand’ of the state,” he said.
The bill provides for certain permanent and temporary emergency measures in the areas of healthcare and health insurance, healthcare activity, absenteeism and healthcare professions, which would address some of the organisational weaknesses of the healthcare system and unreasonably long waiting times, the Government Communication Office explained. Namely, it stipulates that in an extreme, unforeseen event (for example, the sudden shortage of working people in healthcare or the sudden increase in workload), which could thus affect the position of patients and the insured persons in Slovenia, especially by endangering their health or life, would entail united and quick action (in these special conditions), which means that the Minister of Health, based on a proposal from the National Institute of Public Health, a Healthcare Centre or certain institution, can implement certain temporary measures. These include, among others, the limiting or temporary ban on annual leave, the mandatory inclusion of healthcare workers who do not work in the public healthcare sector into the work of the said public system, and the inclusion of retired doctors into the work of public healthcare institutions. But, as Igor Muževič pointed out, they want to achieve this in an unconstitutional way.
“Yesterday, the government passed a bill that gives the Minister of Health the power to compulsorily order all healthcare workers in Slovenia to work in public institutions. This includes retired doctors, as well as those working in private institutions. This may be because of the well-known problem of unacceptably long waiting times, which, in reality, put patients at risk. For many, this is a noble measure by the state,” Muževič warned on the X social network.
But how can we continue to allow patients to die in hospital corridors? Why do we not decree that private builders must build hospitals? Why do we let people die while waiting for years for justice in court? Why do we not force all law school graduates to go to work in the courts so that people do not fall ill while waiting for justice? It would only be fair to make all citizens legally available to the unilateral noble actions of the state. Measures that allow the state to freely dispose of their knowledge and time, under the conditions it determines itself, Muževič continued.
Those concerned do not agree with the proposal
The Ministry of Health circulated the draft proposal to some stakeholders for coordination on the 9th of November and asked them to submit their comments by the following day. After several stakeholders expressed their dissatisfaction, the deadline was extended to the 16th of November. The Young Doctors of Slovenia (Mladi zdravniki) also disagreed with the proposal, writing: “The politics have failed to regulate working conditions in the healthcare sector, driving many employees out of hospitals and healthcare centres. Now, they are passing a law which, in the face of labour shortages, forces all doctors – from retired to private – to work for state institutions, thus restricting their basic rights. FREEDOM? NO!!!” they added.
The question is, is the proposal even constitutional? Much is unconstitutional in Slovenia, much has been proven by the Constitutional Court, and much has also been covered up by the Constitutional Court with the excuse that it is a permissible violation of one part of the constitution in order to respect another part, says Muženič. Tomaž Štih, on the other hand, said that this is a classic example of how socialism is constantly sliding into repression. When the system does not work – socialists tighten the coercion. And because it still does not work, the recipe repeats itself. And the repression gets worse with every repeated cycle.