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Expert: Many Latvians are forced to choose – either to go to doctor or to pay rent

Sarmite Veide. Photo: kasjauns.lv

President of the Latvian Family Physicians’ Association Sarmite Veide told LNT that many Latvians are facing a choice – either to pay rent or to go to doctor – with many of them lacking money for both.

As a result, chronic disease rate in Latvia is growing. The only solution, according to Veide, is stronger state support for health care. Veide believes that the policy of current Health Minister Guntis Belevics is ruining the sector. “He has broken all of his promises- to reduce queues in hospitals, to stop the outflow of highly-qualified doctors, to fight corruption in the sector and to cut medicine prices,” Veide said.

New Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis replied that he could not promise quick inflow of money into the health care sector. He said that the key tasks of Belevics for the time being are to saturate the system with electronic services and to find out where the money is going. In 2017-2017 the health ministry is supposed to develop and apply a health insurance system. Kucinskis admitted that huge queues in hospitals were a serious problem. He said that if Belevics fails to do his job this year, he may be substituted.

Earlier Belevics had a conflict with the authorities of Daugavpils. Belevics urged the local municipality to spend 1 million EUR more on the local hospital. Later Belevics blamed pensioners for the situation. “In Daugavpils, hospitalization rate is 25% higher than in other regions. The local authorities say that this is the most depressive area in the country and this is why people get sick more often there. But the point is that the municipality of Daugavpils adopted a rule saying that pensioners have four free days a year in the local hospital. So, why not to spend four days in clean and warm bed and to enjoy good food and shower?” Belevics said.

Mayor of Daugavpils Janis Lacplesis challenged Belevics to provide proofs. “Let him prove that we have such people and we will react. A person that thinks it possible to deny aid to pensioners just because they are unable to pay 40 EUR for four days has no right to be in the Health Ministry! Managing state medicine and earning money by charging extra for drugs are two different stories,” Lacplesis said, hinting that before his appointment as Health Minister Belevics had a thriving pharm business.

Experts are not surprised that there are queues in the Daugavpils hospital. Last year the government “optimized” the regional health system and closed most of regional hospitals. As a result, the Daugavpils hospital is forced to receive people not only from the city but from the whole region. Medicine in Latvia is expensive. According to Latvian MP Vladimir Borisenok, one day in intensive care department may cost as much as 2,000 EUR. “So, the state must help here,” he says.

MP Janina Kursite has told EADaily that she supports the Daugavpils authorities in their conflict with Belevics. “I think that the people elected as deputies knew what they were doing then they decided to grant those four free days to pensioners. I think it was not nice on Belevics’s part to say that old people go to the hospital just to take a rest for free. Old people are having hard times today. Many of them cannot even pay their bills. We can’t leave them without health care, can we? Belevics has no right to think as a businessman here,” Kursite says.

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