Delay in funding causing problems

A project that makes healthcare more accessible for people living in excluded communities is uncertain for 2017.

Roma communities, illustrative stock photoRoma communities, illustrative stock photo (Source: Tibor Somogyi)

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Currently, people living in excluded, mostly Roma, communities can turn to their health awareness assists when they have health problems.

The assistants, employed by the Zdravé Komunity (Healthy Communities) non-governmental organisation, are thus at the frontline of detecting and reporting infectious diseases, says Michal Kubo, the organisation’s director.

“With their everyday work they probably eliminate the spreading of contagious diseases, like hepatitis, tuberculosis, or mumps,” Kubo told The Slovak Spectator.

The assistants and coordinators of Zdravé Komunity directly cooperate with 752 general practitioners and paediatricians, according to Kubo, and they are involved in carrying out regular preventive check-ups, vaccinations and health education.

The NGO, however, currently finds itself in a tight spot due to a delay in the launch of EU funds worth €12.8 million, which the European Commission approved for them in August 2015, Kubo said. The delay, of which the cause is disputed, has caused problems for the organisation and the employees have had their salaries repeatedly delayed because of it. The approved money from EU funds, ensuring salaries for employees until 2018, has not been provided to the project and it is not known if the money will come at all. Currently there are 237 people employed in 211 localities. The project has a direct impact on 250,000 inhabitants of segregated Roma settlements, according to Kubo.

This project is the most effective project for Roma people in Slovakia, according to Kubo. “It brings a substantial increase of protection of public health to Roma people and also a major part of society,” he added. Kubo insists that the good results of the project are guaranteed by the fact that it has worked according to the same model for 14 years, which has been gradually improving.

For the past two years, the national project has been carried out together by the Health Ministry and the NGO sector Platforma na Podporu Zdravia Znevýhodnených Skupín (Platform to Promote the Health of Disadvantaged Groups – PPZZS).

“The ministry evaluates the activities of the project positively and realises all steps to ensure its funding,” Stanislava Luptáková, the ministry’s spokesperson, told the TASR newswire.

As a solution, the ministry proposes funding an organisation cofinanced from the state budget and putting employees under that structure but PPZZS, as a partner, refuses such a model as they are afraid the Health Ministry will take advantage of the situation and make employment precarious.

“The project and its current model is exactly something that Slovakia should be proud of and which makes it a more developed country, a country that is interested in the essence of things, that is transparent, and innovative,” Kubo stated. “I trust we will not spoil it.”

The Spectator College is a programme designed to support the study and teaching of English in Slovakia, as well as to inspire interest in important public issues among young people. The project was created by The Slovak Spectator in cooperation with their exclusive partner – the Leaf Academy.

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