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ECONOMIC BRIEFS

Ministry of Health asks for patience for its crisis measures

Health Minister Tibor Šagat held a press conference on November 26 to explain the temporary measures to be taken by the end of the year to address the financial crisis in the health care sector. The ministry wants to rationalize diagnostics, treatment, and drug prescription in both basic and specialized heath care. Cost cutting is planned also for dental care and dental products.

Hospitals, Šagat said, will have to limit both the emergency and standard services they provide. Health insurance companies, on the other hand, will be forced to honour an existing agreement and turn over 48% of their total revenues to the cash-strapped hospitals. The proposed measures should save 380 million Sk in the health care sector.

The ministry is establishing a 24-hour telephone hotline to answer questions from health sector employees and citizens. The minister also called on all professional associations, health care providers and workers, health insurance companies and pharmaceutical providers to cooperate in supporting the government programme.

In the longer term, the ministry plans to revise the list of medical services that health insurance companies are obliged to cover. The current list was heavily criticized after its adoption in 1997 because it requires that insurers cover a wide range of medical services without saying exactly how they will be funded. The cost of drugs will also be reduced.

In late October, distributors of diagnostic equipment decided to stop supplying hospitals that are unable to settle their invoices within six months. About 22 hospitals have received no supplies of diagnostic equipment since August, and this has started to affect their ability to provide medical services. Some hospitals can no longer test blood donors or patients and have been obliged to postpone operations.

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