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An octopus is plaguing Slovak health care

THE PIEŠŤANY CT scanner opened a year of Smer scandals in Slovak health care, leading to a number unprecedented in the history of this field. The year also saw a Košice group of businesspeople close to the ruling party exposed, which shed light on the a sort of octopus that reached far beyond that eastern-Slovak metropolis, the daily Sme writes in an extensive report published November 2.

Pavol Paška (in foregorund)(Source: Sme)

Though a fair amount of Smer nominees were recalled from managerial positions during the last year, they have been replaced by new ones from the power network of the ruling party, Sme writes.  

A textbook example of this is the post of the head of University Hospital in Košice which is controlled by the Smer-dominated Health Ministry. After Health Minister Viliam Čislák (nominated by Smer) at the end of last year after several scandals recalled its head – his neighbour - Ladislav Rosocha, Milan Maďar became the new executive manager. Similar to Rosocha, he too is a colleague of Jana Pašková, from the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at the Slovak Medical University. Besides Rosocha and Maďar, also Marcel Forai (until recently the head of the state-owned Všeobecná zdravotná poisťovňa (VšZP) health insurer) graduated on the same day. In September, he had to resign due to contracts and addendums of the state health insurer worth €14 million with companies in which his aunt Anna Sučková was a representative.

Former speaker of parliament Pavol Paška, who had to leave his job last year after the contract to purchase a CT scanner for the Piešťany hospital worth almost €1.6 million from the Medical Group was overpriced, may very well be the secret head of the entire health care sector, according to former health minister Rudolf Zajac. 

Paška had been officially active in the firm during the past decade, moreover his name is mentioned in 15 other companies.

The state shares influence in health care with the Penta financial group. Two-thirds of the resources in health care are controlled by the state, which now in practice means the Smer party, via the VšZP health insurer. One-third is controlled by Penta through its private health insurer Dôvera.  

Many of the key players in the health care octopus as described by the Sme daily are connected with Paška through his wife, Jana Pašková. That is the case of Rosocha and Maďar from the above-mentioned example, as well as Jaroslav Šajty, who too was Pašková’s schoolmate. 

During the first government of Prime Minister Robert Fico, Šajty was the head of University Hospital in Košice. At the time, Pašková worked for the hospital as head of the real estate department. In 2010, she became notable for her role in the hospital selling its plot in the centre of Košice to the VZT Mont company, which was the sole bidder of the property. The chairman of the company’s board was Ivan Šesták. He is Pašková’s brother and Paška’s brother-in-law. Paška’s nephew, Branislav Paška, is also still employed at the Košice University Hospital. He is in charge of public procurement.

Another leg of the octopus unfolds from Paška's neighbour and one-time business partner in the Medical Group, Dušan Mach. Košice regional governor Zdenko Trebuľa also sat on the board of the Medical Group with them. Mach is considered an unofficial head of Smer in this region, according to Sme. 

Mach used to live on Plzenská Street in Košice – only a few doors away from Michal Škrek, the brother-in-law of Košice doctor Robert Teššer.

Teššer is a partner in the Preamed company which make radiology examinations, along with influential local dentist Štefan Cuľba. Škreko is a representative of the company too. 

Cuľba’s name has been mentioned in reports about influence in health care repeatedly. His cousin Tibor Czuľba who used to be the head of Slovak Pharmacists’ Chamber, hinted for Sme that this Košice dentist belongs among strong players of Slovak health care, and works in a pair with Forai.  

Cuľba is connected with Forai also through Róbert Probstner, who is Cuľba’s family friend and partner in the companies Andiamo, Bottega and Domov Terasa. Probstner is Forai’s classmate from elementary school.

Cuľba’s wife Radoslava is the daughter of doctor Milan Masaryk who is head of several Trenčín policlinics. He rents rooms to the Alfamedia company which makes CT and magnetic resonance scans. The company is owned by former soldier Miroslav Lepóni.

Masaryk is connected with Cuľba also via Teššer and Škrek. With the former, he is a partner in the Alfamedis company which does CT scans in Prešov. In this company, Škrek is a representative, as is Lepóni.

Lepóni’s companies managed to conclude – under Forai – contracts for CT and magnetic resonance scanning with VšZP, worth €14 million. Unlike other companies, they managed to conclude unusually long contracts – for four years. Normally, the state health insurer only gives one-year contracts to health care suppliers.

The key person in business with the state insurer was also Forai’s aunt, often referred to as Anka. In addition to her nephew Marcel Forai being forced to resign due to contracts with her firms, she is connected to trading by many key people in the health care sector.  

Sučková’s son, Miroslav, was a businessman. Until this April, he was a partner in the Gynastar company, together with Peter Pažinka. Pažinka’s wife Monika chairs the Health Care Supervision Authority (ÚDZS). It was this authority who was supposed to check on the contracts between VšZP and companies of Forai’s auntie Anka after the former resigned in September at Čislák's behest. After the conflict of interest surfaced, Čislák let the Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ) check them. NKÚ is currently led by joint Smer and Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) nominee, Karol Mitrík.

The husband of the head of ÚZDS, Pažinka, owned the Wesper company in the past. Under former minister Richard Raši (also a Smer nominee), this company received a non-repayable financial contribution form the Helaht Care operational programme, amounting to nearly €2.5 million. With this money, it reconstructed the policlinic at the Prešov housing estate Sekčov. Although the operational programme’s rules do not allow it to sell the property reconstructed in this way sooner than five years, Wesper did so after three years – thanks to an approval by Health Ministry, led then by minister Zuzana Zvolenská. Last year, Wesper sold the policlinic to Penta, receiving about €8 million for it, according to the Trend weekly.

In Wesper, Norbert Bödör was Pažinka’s partner. He is the son of Miroslav Bödör who is the boss of the private security company Bonul. The company guards many state institutions, and its annual receipts are dozens of millions of euros. Last week, Bonul was in the news for alleged connections to a dubious public tender for the Physical Security of Workplaces of the Všeobecná zdravotná poisťovňa insurer. The total worth of that order exceeded €1.6 million.

Miroslav Bödör, as head of the private security company has good – blood-related, in fact – relations also with security forces of the state. Bödör’s wife and wife of the Police President Tibor Gašpar are, according to Sme information, sisters.

"The octopus exists in all spheres, not just in health care,” former police investigator Jozef Šátek said. This system is, according to him, set to cronyism, corruption and drawing of finances. "If law enforcement bodies, the prosecutor’s office and police acted the way they should it is enough if you break eight of ten tentacles of the octopus, and the remaining two will die.”  

Disclaimer: Penta financial group has a 45-percent share in Petit Press, the co-owner of The Slovak Spectator.

Compiled by The Spectator staff from the Sme daily

Topic: Health care

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