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Media reports suggest health minister will resign

THE ROBERT Fico government seems likely to lose another minister. Following changes at the ministries of defence and agriculture, the top position at the health ministry looks set to change hands.

THE ROBERT Fico government seems likely to lose another minister. Following changes at the ministries of defence and agriculture, the top position at the health ministry looks set to change hands.

The financial daily Hospodárske Noviny reported on May 27 that Health Minister Ivan Valentovič would step down as of June 10. It said he would resign due to health reasons and media reported that he would be replaced by either Richard Raši, the general director of the Bratislava Teaching Hospital and Polyclinic, or by Jozef Valocký, an MP for the governing Smer party.

The Pravda daily then reported that a source close to the prime minister, Robert Fico, had confirmed that Valentovič will go.

MPs and analysts say that it does not matter who replaces Valentovič.

"No one will be able to take an independent line because healthcare has turned into a political issue," Mária Sabolová, an MP for the opposition Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), told the Pravda daily.

Opposition politicians as well as healthcare workers' organisations have criticised Valentovič, in particular for pursuing the political goals of the prime minister. Valentovič, for example, cancelled the fees collected by doctors for appointments, and pushed through legislation banning health insurance companies from making a profit.

Valentovič is not the only minister troubling the prime minister. According to Hospodárske Noviny, Foreign Affairs Minister Ján Kubiš is on a Smer party black list because he is "too apolitical". Social Affairs Minister Viera Tomanová was also named as a minister facing criticism from a party in the governing coalition, in this case the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS).
Since the government of Robert Fico took power in July 2006, two ministers have left their posts. Fico sacked Miroslav Jureňa as agriculture minister for political responsibility over land transfer scandals at the Slovak Land Fund on November 27, 2007. František Kašický resigned as defence minister on January 30 after his ministry was found to have issued several inflated tenders for cleaning services.

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