POLITICIANS can hardly keep convincing people that the biggest problem of health care is the lack of money if the state tolerates murky deals and waste of public funds in the healthcare sector, President Andrej Kiska said in his first key address to the parliament on November 26 – with Prime Minister Robert Fico notably absent. The president’s speech came on the heels of a number of changes to senior political posts, including that of the speaker of parliament after the resignation of Pavol Paška provoked by a recent scandal surrounding overpriced medical equipment and subsequent anti-corruption rallies. Fico did not attend and Kiska spoke to a half-empty house in the presence of a single cabinet official, Finance Minister Peter Kažimír, the Sme daily reported.
“Understandably, people in this case react especially sensitively to profiting from illness and human misfortune,” said Kiska in response to a series of anti-corruption rallies. “There are few people who in such a case would remain indifferent and would not be disillusioned and angry. This is how I see protests and demonstrations these days.”
The protests organised by a number of opposition deputies culminated on November 25 when approximately 5,000 people filled the streets of Bratislava.
The protesters demand the ban of shell companies in public tenders and the recall of additional people linked to a flawed computer tomography (CT) scanner tender.
Kiska said that the protests are understandable and legitimate and that the discontent they express must be heard and not demeaned. The president also noted that the majority of people in Slovakia are convinced that political interests, the interests of suppliers of health equipment, and the interests of health insurers are trumping those of physicians and health-care staff, with the interests of the patients coming in last, the SITA newswire quoted the speech.
Kiska cites politically-motivated nominations, which have been applied in the health care sector for years, as one of the causes of problems in health care and called for a prompt depoliticisation of the system.
If the government is able to fight tax evasion by a so-called Tax Cobra task force, a special police and customs task force, perhaps it is time for the health sector to have its own cobra, the president said while calling for an in-depth investigation of every case of an overpriced or ineffective purchase.
The ruling Smer have remained tight-lipped in responding to the president’s speech. Kažimír assessed the speech as balanced, according to Sme.
“I would be glad if the discussion and exchange of opinions moved back to parliament, where they belong,” newly appointed Speaker of Parliament Peter Pellegrini told Sme, adding that the government has already expressed its disagreement with the non-transparent deals.
The opposition was critical of the government ignoring the president’s speech with Smer’s Otto Brixi arguing that the cabinet was simply busy, according to the TASR newswire.
With press reports
Smer’s Pellegrini takes up speaker role
1. Dec 2014 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová