SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Na zdravie

IT ALWAYS seemed that ‘na zdravie’ (to health) wasn’t the most appropriate thing to say before having a drink. And recent events show that the medical risks can be even more serious than one usually realises. Sadly, the methanol poisonings aren’t the only tragic events of the past week – there was also the discovery of the dead body of a five-year-old in a Bratislava apartment.

IT ALWAYS seemed that ‘na zdravie’ (to health) wasn’t the most appropriate thing to say before having a drink. And recent events show that the medical risks can be even more serious than one usually realises. Sadly, the methanol poisonings aren’t the only tragic events of the past week – there was also the discovery of the dead body of a five-year-old in a Bratislava apartment.

The girl had been deceased for three years without anyone noticing. In a country where you have to visit five different public institutions when a child is born, and skipping school is a crime, that sounds unbelievable. Yet the case proves the same point as the hesitant official reaction to the alcohol scare – in many ways, the state only works on paper. On tons and tons of paper. And the maze of institutions doesn’t lead to more comprehensive services, but to real problems getting lost in the system.

This should be at the heart of the ongoing debate about the supposedly revolutionary reform of public services. But so far, we have heard more about the impossibility of layoffs, the need for a state-run real-estate agency or new names for old institutions, than about what the state should be doing and how. Without more substance, the bureaucratic reform will do as little for the health of the state, as liquor does for that of the body.

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