New Health Minister Demands Action on Long Hospital Waiting Times

By , 03 Oct 2018, 13:00 PM Politics
New Health Minister Demands Action on Long Hospital Waiting Times, public domain, uploaded by Rhoda Baer and acquired from the US National Cancer Institute

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STA, 2 October 2018 - Samo Fakin, the new health minister, held his first meeting with hospital directors on Tuesday as he sets out to tackle the toughest issue under the purview of his portfolio, long hospital waiting times. He said he expected results within six months and indicated additional funding would be only a part of the solution. 

"Significantly better results can be expected within six months ... Hospital directors and employees have shown in the past that we can live without long waiting times," he said after a meeting with the heads of the country's 27 public hospitals.

Waiting times will be tackled with additional funds, better organisation, productivity improvements and better utilization of staff. "I expect all employees ... to be not only present at work but also perform services," he said.

Fakin was also quick to point out that replacements of hospital leaderships were not on the agenda at the moment.

Waiting times exploded during the economic crisis, when healthcare funding was pared back.

At the same time, hospitals incurred huge losses and eventually had to be bailed out with an EUR 136m financial injection last year, with the funds controversially used largely to pay down debt to suppliers.

Despite the bailout, 17 of the 27 hospitals, including seven of the 15 that are still undergoing financial restructuring, were in the red by the first half of this year, posting a cumulative loss of about EUR 21m.

Fakin said today that one way for the hospitals to reduce waiting times was to perform more services during regular working hours. "I think there's still quite a lot of spare time," he said.

National Institute of Public Health data show that as of 1 August almost 122,000 people were on waiting lists for hospital procedures, of whom more than half were waiting longer than medically advisable.

Meanwhile, Metod Mezeg, the head of the the Association of Slovenian Health Institutions, expressed hope that the ministry will boost health care funding and secure additional funding sources.

He also wants hospital managements to have more autonomy, which will require legislative changes. Mezeg said he agreed with the minister in principle, but "under the condition that the price of services is set realistically", which is currently not the case.

On the other hand, Marjan Sušel, the secretary general of the ZZZS public health insurance manager, believes that the first order of business will be to get precise data on waiting times. He believes that hospitals still should improve their management and abolish unnecessary cost.

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