News Briefs

Kováč determined to close under-used Slovak hospitals
Justice Ministry not to stop Biľak prosecution
Belgium could cancel visa regime in April
Languages Charter approved by government

Kováč determined to close under-used Slovak hospitals

Minister of Health Roman Kováč January 11 presented an economic analysis of the health care sector and proposed measures to improve the financial situation of the health care system.
The minister said that Slovakia had inherited a lavish and money-consuming health care system with a large number of redundant beds from the Communist regime. The document has been recently submitted to other ministries for discussion and comments.
Kováč added that he has already agreed with Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family Peter Magvaši on the transformation of two small hospitals into institutions for the mentally challenged, and reiterated his determination to cancel little-used medical facilities.
"I am willing to be the 'bad' man who would close such hospitals," said Kováč.
The minister's analysis indicates that every Slovak spends 24 days annually on medical leave and visits a doctor 17-times per year on average. In neighbouring Austria, a citizen visits a doctor only five-times per year. Slovak doctors, the analysis showed, also write 75 million prescriptions annually.
The ministry considers the consumption of medication in Slovakia excessively high and has attempted to reduce it by rearranging individual drugs into categories of medications partially or completely covered by health insurance companies.

Justice Ministry not to stop Biľak prosecution

Justice Minister Ján Čarnogurský said January 16 that his ministry had decided not to submit a proposal to halt criminal prosecution against Vasil Biľak to President Rudolf Schuster.
In late March last year, the regional prosecutor in Bratislava filed a lawsuit against Vasil Biľak, former secretary general of the Czechoslovak Communist Party. Biľak faced charges of high treason and violations of the law on the protection of peace.
Čarnogurský also recommends President Schuster not to uphold Karol Martinka's request for amnesty before an independent court decides on his case. Martinka is charged with privatisation fraud associated with the Piešťany spa.

Belgium could cancel visa regime in April

Belgian Interior Minister Antoine Duquesne said in Bratislava January 15 that Belgium is coordinating its decision to cancel visas for Slovaks with EU countries and that the current visa regime for Slovaks could be cancelled in April when the unified European visa policy is scheduled to take effect.
However, he added that certain guarantees were needed before the regime is cancelled, including assurances that withdrawal of the visa requirement will not be followed by a rise in asylum-seekers to the country. After the installation of a visa regime for Slovaks, their number dropped from several hundred to 30 or 40 monthly.
Following the signing of a memorandum of understanding in Bratislava the same day with Slovak Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner covering cooperation between the police authorities in both countries Slovakia pledged to provide Belgian law-enforcement bodies with all information on the Roma exodus.

Languages Charter approved by government

The Slovak government approved the European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages on January 17, which will now go before parliament for ratification. Ratification of the charter is necessary in Slovakia's European Union accession process. The cabinet failed to approve the charter the previous week due to differences over a clause on the use of minority languages in public administration.

Compiled by Ed Holt from TASR and SITA

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