Sofia, March 28, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
General practitioners, private and municipal hospitals in Bulgaria began protests on March 28 in a show of dissent against reforms to the country’s health care system due to take effect on April 1.
As part of the protest against reforms piloted by Petar Moskov, Health Minister in Bulgaria’s centre-right coalition cabinet, GPs in the cities and towns of Veliko Turnovo, Kyustendil, Razgrad and Yambol went on strike on March 28.
However, for patients in urgent need, including the elderly and seriously ill children, there would be doctors on duty at each medical facility where GPs were on strike. Access to routine examinations and tests will be difficult because of the GPs’ strike.
The medical practitioners are protesting against the framework contract by the Health Ministry and National Health Insurance Fund distribute funding.
GPs also are protesting against a change to the system whereby access to services at hospitals, pharmacies and clinics will be possible only against fingerprint ID. They also object to what they say is insufficient funding for preventative examinations in specialist areas.
Bulgarian medical associations say that the changes will lead to problems in a system that remains under-financed, patients will not be able to choose where to be treated, and hospitals will be deprived of the opportunity to invest in innovation.
Bulgaria’s Health Ministry has acknowledged that out-patient care has been neglected and under-funded for a long time, but insists that the reforms will result in an improvement of the service given to patients.
Reports said that the protest that began on March 28 would continue for three days and after that GPs would decide what form their protest would take in the future.
Responding to the concerns of GPs that the electronic identification system will hamper and delay their work, the National Health Insurance Fund said that the registration system for the health insured events during the rendering of medical aid through biometric identifiers of the patients would be first introduced at the hospitals after the first half of 2016.
The protest was aimed at inciting chaos and tension in the system, Dr Desislava Katelieva, chairperson of the Association of the Workers in the Emergency Medical Aid Service, local news agency Focus said.
According to her, the patients will be the one to be harmed by the strike, as well as the medics working at the emergency medical aid centres, who will be faced with extra workload.
“If you have to vaccinate your child, get a clinical pathway for hospitalisation or examination by an expert, where will you go, whom will you address? Did the GPs think about this when planning their protest,” Katelieva said.
“Whose hands are they tying really? Those of the patients, who are the least to be blamed for the chaos in the healthcare, as well as of the people working in the emergency medical aid centres,” she said.
Katelieva said that if the GPs’ purpose was different, they would have chosen other forms of protest.
She said emergency medical aid centres would not turn away patients but they would not assume responsibility for delays in the work.
(Photo: Paul Barker/sxc.hu)