A SENIOR health sector official has said a decision taken by medicine suppliers on payments "could be the end for hospitals" in Slovakia.
Peter Ottinger, president of the Association of Slovak Hospitals, is warning that threats from drug suppliers that they will stop providing medicines if payments are not made within 30 days will spell doom for almost all hospitals.
"This could be the end. Hospitals regard payments made within 120 or 150 days as a success, and some are late on payments by more than a year," he said.
Some drug suppliers have run into severe financial problems because of late or non-payment by hospitals for supplies.
Many hospitals are in massive financial trouble and debts in the health care sector run into billions of Slovak crowns. Some hospitals have had energy, water and food supplies cut off because of fears over ability to meet outstanding payments.
Doctors and hospital managers say the problem lies in poorly distributed state funding.
Health Minister Roman Kováč has promised to look into the drug suppliers' decision. His ministry is concerned that it may be breaking laws on economic competition.
"If it's a serious matter the minister will ask suppliers' representatives for discussions," said a Health Ministry spokesman.