The Social Democrats (Socialni demokrati – SD) are a party of promises. In all of the years that they have been part of left-wing coalitions, they have promised us decent wages, pensions, long-term care, an end to poverty and a healthcare system where no one is left behind – and they promised this before every election. In the run-up to last year’s elections, their promise that caught the most attention was the “30 days to a specialist” one – which they presented without any detailed plans on how this would happen. Instead, they offered a recycled programme of the outdated central planning ideas of the former Minister of Health and eternal adviser to left-wing governments, Dušan Keber. Ideas that were the main culprit for the situation we are in today. A good half a year after we were promised that we would be able to see a specialist within 30 days, we are witnessing an unprecedented collapse of our healthcare system.
“Our health is all we have. Health is our priority. I spent part of my youth in this clinical centre. Many of us have experienced many hardships here, long periods of waiting and uncertainty with our relatives,” the President of the Social Democrats party, Tanja Fajon, said on the platform in front of the University Medical Centre Ljubljana ahead of the elections, announcing measures to ensure that all people would get an appointment with a specialist within 30 days at the most.
“Our health is the most important thing that we have. That is why we have made it a priority to ensure access to a specialist within 30 days, because the endlessly long waiting times are a cancer wound in our society,” Fajon was clear before the elections.
A successful platitude
Their platitude was almost too successful, as people internalised it and took it as a real promise. However, now the Social Democrats are the target of many jokes due to their empty promise, because we are witnessing a real collapse of the healthcare system, and in Ljubljana, we even saw scenes of people waiting in queues in front of one of the Community Health Centres – scenes that are very reminiscent of a third world country. The new government has had the scissors and the canvas of executive power in its hands for six months now. In that time, it has indefinitely delayed the overhaul of long-term care, threatened doctors, planned the closure of urgent care centres in 28 towns and cities, delayed the rebuilding of the University Medical Centre and, with its careless and reckless attitude to the coronavirus pandemic, ensured that we are close to reaching a world record for the number of people currently infected.
The queues outside health centres are primarily due to the shortage of family doctors, which is reaching new records every day, while the government is doing its utmost to push this most scarce cadre to move abroad. On the other hand, the coronavirus is also indirectly to blame for the outbreak of respiratory diseases we have seen in recent months, as it has been scientifically proven that Covid-19 weakens the immune system and makes it more susceptible to other opportunistic respiratory diseases. It is worth pointing out, though, that the Prime Minister wanted to treat Covid with seawater and sunshine, and the Minister for Health publicly said that vaccines do not work.
The SD party is now part of the government, so where are the specialists?
The Social Democrats are now finally part of the government again, whether we like it or not, together with the Freedom Movement party (Gibanje Svoboda), which was created in resistance to the anti-coronavirus measures – meaning, the SD party is working with the movement most responsible for the queues of desperate sick people without a doctor lining up outside the health centres. What has happened to the promises of the Social Democrats in the meantime? Will they also go to the University Medical Centre today and protest against their coalition partners and force them to reach an agreement with FIDES, the doctors’ trade union, as soon as possible?
The impotence of their pre-election promises
They probably won’t do that. The Social Democrats are strategically staying quiet on the matter. Even at a time when having to only wait 30 days to see a specialist has turned into having to wait 30 days (or more) to see a family doctor. Their pre-election promise was actually very useful, as it showed us exactly how important the pre-elections promises are to the left-wing parties. Today, the coalition is mainly concerned with how to shake off various self-inflicted scandals and how to distribute public money most efficiently among its civil society outgrowths, rather than actually governing and looking after people’s well-being.
Tania Fajon’s speech in front of the University Medical Centre was a perfect demonstration of the fact that promises are just promises, and when it comes to governing, she is only interested in who will put as many of her own staff as possible on the supervisory boards and management boards of state-owned companies. And they do not care that, in the meantime, healthcare is looking more and more like another pre-election sketch by the Social Democrats – the one in which two old men talk about waiting for the doctor for more than a year.