Ljubljana related

28 Jun 2022, 11:49 AM

STA, 27 June 2022 - The coronavirus pandemic and new legislation related to absenteeism have exacerbated a little discussed issue that the public health insurance fund says demands urgent attention. Faced with a continuing rise in the share and amount of sick leave costs it is having to bear, the ZZZS is urging change, in particular for long-term absences.

While the healthcare spotlight has mostly been on the long waiting lines for treatments and the debate on how much privatisation should be tolerated in the sector, the ZZZS has seen absenteeism costs born by it rise from EUR 225 million in 2013 to EUR 315 million in 2017, then to EUR 442 million in 2020 and to EUR 498 million in 2021.

The figures recorded by June have the ZZZS speaking of the possibility of exceeding EUR 700 million this year, which is partly the result of pandemic restrictions that continued into this year and legislative changes introduced last year.

The changes shortened the number of sick leave days covered by employers from the first 30 days to the first 20 days, which means the ZZZS shoulders the costs sooner. What is more, the maximum number of sick leave days in a year covered by employers has been reduced from 120 to 80 days. Anything beyond that is borne by the ZZZS.

A look at 2021 shows employers covering a total 807,278 sick leave absences amounting to 5,745,668 days, while the ZZZS bore the costs of 551,539 absences totalling 8,438,690 days.

The share of work days lost to sickness in the total number of work days rose by 0.6 percentage points in 2021 to 5.1%, with the share covered by the ZZZS rising from 2.6% to 3%.

While the average duration of absence due to sickness or injury was about 11 days in the past two years, the ZZZS had to cover all the costs stemming from mandatory isolation due to the epidemic.

The fund is meanwhile noting costs will also continue to rise because of the relatively high employment rate, later retirement, the absence of a cap on the number of paid sick leave days, and the lacking coordination of procedures ascertaining temporary and permanent work disability.

The ZZZS argues Slovenia's legislation governing long-term sick leave absences is at odds with those in modern European countries, "where the duration of sick leave is usually limited to one year".

Highlighting ongoing absences that began as far back as 2009, it notes that the tendency to continue extending absences due to sickness or injury as opposed to applying for disability status is also driven by compensation in the former case being higher.

The ZZZS says the aim of future systemic measures should be to preserve the working capacity of insured persons. The key challenges include rapid reintegration in the work process, which can be achieved with effective vocational rehabilitation, workplace adaptation, earlier and more active involvement of employers and the occupational health profession.

The fund sees the need to reorganise the right to sick leave compensation in a way comparable to other European countries, to raise awareness with workers about their responsibility for their health and with employers about the need for a safe and healthy working environment.

It demands a reform of disability legislation to speed up procedures, adequate disability benefits, a shift from focusing on the incapacity for work towards finding and recognising the work capacity that remains, and for a boosting of rehabilitation efforts.

17 May 2022, 08:54 AM

STA, 16 May 2022 - Doctors strongly oppose the announcement in the draft coalition agreement that doctors in the public sector will be fully banned from working for private providers. Nurses, on the other hand, have welcomed an announcement of better pay and of a new set of standards and norms for staffing and workload.

While the powerful FIDES trade union has yet to study the document, the Medical Chamber and Young Doctors believe the blanket ban is not a solution to the problems in the country's healthcare and could even encourage more doctors to leave the public health system.

Restricting the scope and organisation of the work of doctors with bureaucratic measures when there is a shortage of at least 1,000 doctors could further affect the capacity of the Slovenian healthcare system, the chamber said on Monday.

It said the current restrictions already reduce the interest of doctors in working in public health services while the latest proposal would put them at a great disadvantage compared to other public employees.

Young Doctors said "every doctor who carries out an examination, surgery or gives an opinion is reducing waiting times - regardless of when they do it," they told STA.

The organisation noted that conditions to work for private providers while being employed at a public health organisation are already clearly set down and the scope is limited. At the same time, working conditions and pay in public healthcare cannot even be compared with private providers.

The doctors' view that the ban would be discriminatory to doctors in comparison with some other groups was upheld by jurist Nataša Pirc Musar.

She noted that under the existing legislation, doctors must obtain a permission from their employer before starting working with another employer.

Pirc Musar therefore urged better oversight, and clearer guidance so that public providers know under what conditions they can approve work for private providers.

Nurses meanwhile reacted more positively to what the draft coalition agreement envisages for them - the adoption of staffing standards and norms as set down in the 2018 strike agreement, the elimination of wage disparities, rewarding good performance, scholarships for secondary and tertiary education, and less administrative work.

The Chamber of Nurses and Midwives and the Trade Union of Health and Social Care are particularly happy with the announcement of the staffing standards and elimination of pay disparities.

The chamber's head Monika Ažman told the STA that they see it as "the step in the right direction". She noted however that until pay for nurses become competitive, staff will continue to leave the public health system and young people will not be deciding to study to become nurses or midwives.

15 May 2022, 09:10 AM

STA, 14 May 2022 - As the future coalition partners are expected to initial a coalition agreement on Saturday, some details from the document have already leaked out. The agreement envisages changes in the pension and healthcare system, and there is a commitment to raise minimum wage to EUR 800 and minimum pension to EUR 700.

Some of the details of the agreement have already been revealed by members of the Freedom Movement, Social Democrats (SD) and Left in their public appearances.

Among other things, they announced that around 20,000 apartments with non-profit rent will be constructed in the next two government terms, and that minimum wage would be raised to EUR 800 net and minimum pension to EUR 700.

The plan is to eventually abolish top-up health insurance, and suspend the purchase of Boxer armoured personnel carriers (APCs). Procedures of procurement of military equipment under the government of Janez Janša will be reviewed.

The N1 news web portal portal has also noted the commitment that there will be no razor wire and other "technical obstacles" on the border with Croatia, erected to control illegal migration flow, by the end of this year.

Another proposal is that physicians from the public healthcare system will no longer be allowed to work for private individuals and concessionaires after they finish their shifts in public institutions.

Also in the works is progressive taxation of property, and the coalition will also advocate for the rights of employees to turn off their company phones and e-mail at the end of working hours.

According to the N1 sources, the agreement stipulates that the tax reform of the Janša government that brought higher net wages will be abolished at the beginning of next year.

The online edition of the newspaper Večer adds that the amount of the general personal income tax break will remain the same.

Companies, including start-ups, are expected to receive tax incentives for the digital and green transition, and the effective corporate income tax rate is expected to increase.

The coalition is also expected to promote employee participation in profit and their involvement in the ownership and management of companies, N1 says.

According to the portal, the government intends to launch talks with the EU institutions to amend the national recovery and resilience plan, and that EU funds will be used primarily to finance the green transition and digitalisation.

The coalition promises free school meals to all primary and secondary school students, and curricula in schools are also expected to be somewhat changed, N1 adds.

Večer notes mitigation of the rising energy prices with an emphasis on the most vulnerable groups, promotion of the development of solar power plants and replacement of heating devices on fossil fuel with those on renewable energy.

The future coalition also plans a pension reform that would strengthen the first pension pillar and encourage additional pension savings. In healthcare, it plans to establish updated records of waiting lines for treatment and procedures.

They also promise greater availability of physicians at the primary level, debureaucratisation and digitalisation of the healthcare system and additional financial incentives for the medical staff.

When it comes to the media, the future partners announce that the broadcaster RTV Slovenija and other public media (the Slovenian Press Agency - STA) will be provided with a status that will prevent political interference, Večer says.

They will also work on abolishing electoral units introducing preferential vote in the elections to the National Assembly, which will require a two-thirds majority in parliament.

According to information obtained by the STA, the coalition agreement will include a strategy for abolishing precarious work, where public administration would be an example. There is also the commitment to reduce abuse of part-time employment.

Other goals include a more transparent system of disability insurance, stronger network of public social welfare institutions, prevention of brain drain and a clear migration policy with employment strategy and comprehensive integration.

13 Apr 2022, 14:54 PM

STA, 13 April 2022 - Parties contesting the 24 April general election have prepared various measures to cut waiting times in Slovenia's healthcare, one of the most pressing issues even before the Covid pandemic hit. Meanwhile, most of them say in their responses to STA questions about healthcare that top-up health insurance should be abolished.

The parties would use all available capacities, including private doctors, to cut waiting times, although they would prioritise public healthcare providers.

Most of them would reform the system to a certain degree, reduce administrative burdens, introduce long-term staffing plans, reward more and better work, ensure transparency of public procurement, and fight against corruption.

Those parties that advocate allowing private practitioners to also work in the public healthcare system highlight the need for oversight and certain limits to this practice.

Only New Slovenia (NSi) and the Patriotic League would not abolish top-up insurance - a monthly sum of around EUR 35 paid directly to insurance companies in addition to monthly contributions employees and employers pay from wages to the ZZZS public health fund. The Democrats (SDS) have meanwhile not responded to this question.

The SDS believes the ZZZS must become an active buyer of services for its insurance policy holders and introduce a permanent mechanism to cut waiting times while integrating all health professionals into the effort. The party would allow doctors from the public system to work for private providers under clear conditions.

The Freedom Movement notes the list of waiting times is no longer kept, and would set up a task force to make waiting times acceptable. It would reform top-up insurance, before which a consensus should be reached how to raise the EUR 600 million from this source annually. They want to raise funds for healthcare to 10% of GDP.

The Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) believes that more funds should be secured to cut waiting times and services should be paid as they are performed, especially where waiting lines are extremely long. Ljubljana and Maribor should get city hospitals, while top-up insurance should be abolished and the public health system strengthened.

Strongly supporting public healthcare, the Left would abolish the practice of doctors from the public sector working in the private sector, as a result of which their interest in having long waiting lines would wane. To cope with a shortage of doctors, one measure would be to import foreign doctors in an organised and controlled way.

The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) would first overhaul waiting lists to exclude those who have received services in the private sector, while noting no other country has doctors working in both public and private systems. Before abolishing top-up insurance, all of its aspects must be examined not to worsen access to health services.

According to Our Land, waiting times could be cut by reforming healthcare, including abolishing top-up insurance, while the ZZZS public fund should be organised as a mutual insurer where those who pay insurance manage it. The state is responsible for quality, solidarity-based and accessible healthcare, and if the health fund does not have enough money to provide it, the state should help in with the funds from the budget.

New Slovenia (NSi) would involve all health providers into efforts to cut waiting times, which need better oversight. They would improve access to family doctors by allowing more enrolments at medical schools, while conditions should be created to attract Slovenian doctors working abroad. The party would abolish the ZZZS's monopoly to introduce competition in mandatory health insurance.

The Connecting Slovenia alliance of parties wants to create stimulating conditions to keep young doctors at home, while enhancing digitalisation and telemedicine. Changing or abolishing top-up insurance should be a matter of a broad consensus, while it promotes public healthcare but does not oppose public doctors working for private providers.

The Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) would like to strengthen public healthcare by increasing investment to increase its quality and accessibility, while also increasing the number of family doctors and improving working conditions with less administrative burden and more digitalisation. A clear line is needed between public and private healthcare.

The Social Democrats (SD) want to cut waiting times for appointments with a specialist to no more than 30 says, which they would achieve with a set of measures, including a EUR 200 million emergency fund to cut waiting lines. They favour doctors employed at public providers to work overtime within the public system not in the private sector.

The National Party (SNS) believes that waiting times could be cut with good organisation and no corruption. The public health system must be preserved while private initiative should also be allowed.

The Pirates believe waiting times could be cut by changing standards and norms, financing and by reducing administrative burdens. They would not ban doctors working in the public system from working for private providers, but would enhance oversight.

The Patriotic League holds that doctors working in the public and private system in fact help keep the public system afloat, so they would not abolish this practice, arguing that patients are not interested where they are treated as long as they receive a quality service.

The Truth party would cut waiting lines by introducing "a public health system" as it argues the country currently has "a state health system". They promote fighting corruption, which would result in more money for healthcare and doctor pay.

16 Feb 2022, 12:11 PM

STA, 15 February - Trade unions representing workers in health and social care maintain they will go on strike on Wednesday, as talks with the government on their strike demands, including a pay rise, have failed to make any meaningful progress, the unions told the STA.

The trade unions announced the strike in late January, saying the government had failed to resume talks by the agreed deadline, and they insist on it after the latest round of talks with Health Ministry representatives, as they believe the government has failed to resolve the situation.

The negotiations were held behind closed doors for several hours. On top of the same pay rise that the government endorsed for doctors and dentists, the unions' demands also include an improvement in working conditions.

"Today, as has been the case since the strike was announced, the trade unions' side has been striving to reach an agreement that would prevent Wednesday's strike," Irena Ilešič Čujovič, the head of the union of health and social care staff, told the press after today's talks.

She said that the trade unions had made very valid and specific proposals, and that they had also tried to explain their arguments for the strike agreement to the government's negotiating team today.

The trade unions were expecting a counter-proposal from the government that would show it is interested in resolving their strike demands.

"However, we're sad to note that the government has not reached out when it comes to the very minimum demands that the (...) trade unions had, so no agreement has been reached, and tomorrow the announced strike in healthcare and social care will be carried out," she added.

The government did endorse the negotiating positions on the matter, but the unions have expressed their disappointment over them, and the situation was exacerbated by negotiations with doctors and dentists, with whom the government had agreed to raise their salaries by six pay grades, some even by seven.

At the end of today's negotiations, the trade unions and the government reached an agreement on ensuring a minimum working process during the strike to safeguard the health and lives of Slovenian citizens.

The strike will include the cancellation of all non-emergency health services and the closure of pharmacies between 10am and 4pm, with the exception of those on call.

Public broadcaster RTV Slovenija meanwhile reported that the doctors' and dentists' trade union Fides held a meeting today to discuss the developments.

Fides has recently criticised Health Minister Janez Poklukar for, it said, rushing to put out the fire with pre-election "candies" instead of specific solutions that he had the opportunity to implement, meaning a pay rise for doctors and dentists.

This came after the Constitutional Court last week stayed, pending its final decision, the implementation of a provision in the latest Covid relief law that would raise the pay ceiling in the single public sector wage system only to the benefit of doctors and dentists.

According to unofficial sources of RTV Slovenija, Fides is not in favour of announcing a strike, but will insist on doctors and dentists exiting the single pay system.

Ilešič Čujovič said that the talks had taken into account the new situation following the court's decision with the trade unions representing workers in health and social care requesting that the further negotiations be concluded by 4 March. In an agreement reached in November, this deadline was set for 24 April, when the general election is due.

"We think that three weeks should be enough time to diagnose the problems that we are all aware of," she added.

Health Minister Janez Poklukar said that he saw no reasons for the strike, as eventually the issue had been raised over the changing of deadlines in an agreement that had already been reached last year.

"If we make some agreements, then it is usually fair for all of us to stick to them," the minister said, while calling the strike announcement a "legitimate tool of the trade unions" and regretting the decision.

Poklukar also regretted that the starting points for talks had not been prepared in time, while noting that the starting points adopted at the end of January were a good basis for negotiations and provided for broad dialogue and seeking of consensus.

Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj, who is also in charge of social affairs, said that the strike was irresponsible and unjustified and that the government was still willing to talk.

He noted that last November, the government had agreed with representative social care trade unions for a wage increase of between two and four brackets, and added that investing in employees, infrastructure and long-term care programmes remained the ministry's priorities.

The Association of Social Institutions of Slovenia meanwhile expressed support for the strike demands, noting that the existing standards and norms were outdated, as they had not been changed for decades, and they no longer meet the needs of beneficiaries.

Responding to the planned strike, the UKC Ljubljana medical centre said that after two years of the coronavirus epidemic, it was not possible to delay medical treatment without detrimental consequences for patients.

Therefore, scheduled examinations, treatments and operations are not to be postponed at the country's largest hospital in the wake of the strike. The UKC Ljubljana management added, though, that it respected the right of employees to strike.

12 Dec 2021, 16:40 PM

STA, 12 December - The Health Ministry has approved five of the 34 applications for recognition of professional qualifications of doctors from third countries that have been submitted this year, and eight of the 42 applications submitted last year.

Under an emergency act that came into effect ten years ago, recognition of professional qualifications from third countries can be sped up where the Health Ministry sets the maximum number of job openings based on the health providers' demand.

The upper limit for job offerings for doctors from third countries in 2019 was set at 130, of which 55 for GPs. The cap was raised in response to excessive workload faced by family doctors.

Last year the ministry set the upper limit at 257, of which up to 70 slots were available for family doctors. Of the 42 applications received, the ministry has so far approved eight, only one of which was for family medicine.

Three of the applications have been rejected or procedure has been ended, while 31 are still being handled, the ministry has told the STA.

This year the cap for openings for doctors abroad has been set at 281, of which 72 for family doctors or GPs. Of the 34 applications submitted, five have so far been approved and 26 are still pending with the remaining three set aside.

12 Dec 2021, 12:02 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 10 December 2021. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Doctors in Slovenia

STA, 10 December 2021 - Under the headline Doctors, Mladina's latest commentary looks at the lack of respect in Slovenia's society, especially of doctors, analysing their calls for changes to the payment system in healthcare and suggesting that they are being exploited by power-hungry elites who want more privatisation.

Mladina's commentary begins by noting the lack of respect and understanding in Slovenia's society, which is being felt by all people, not only doctors, who recently complained about that and about being overworked, while they advocated for better salaries.

"Doctors are finding it difficult to convince the public of the legitimacy of their claims. Their incomes are simply so high that it is hard for citizens to understand these demands. Why can they no longer convince us?" Mladina asks.

"The first problem is the excess income of individual doctors," says the weekly and points to the doctors who exploit the public healthcare system to supplement their incomes with private-sector practices.

"Of course, this impression is largely unfair to the majority of doctors: most have not usurped the public system in order to shamelessly exploit it, the vast majority are actually working hard."

But although it might seem like it, these doctors are not fighting for the public healthcare payment system, Mladina says, adding that their hardships will actually be exploited to justify further privatisation of healthcare and raising the highest salaries.

"All of this is obscene in the eyes of citizens - but that does not make the frustrations and hardships of doctors any less real, while this situation only suits those holding power in the medical ranks, as they slowly grab hold of the system piece by piece."

"The public has so far always shown that it wants to take the doctors' side, but they can no longer look the other way if they want public support. The battles against these anomalies are also their battles, which they have been avoiding thus far," concludes the commentary.

Demokracija: Inclusive language guidelines

STA, 9 December 2021 - Demokracija says in its latest editorial that it is completely irrelevant whether the European Commission has pulled the internal guidelines on inclusive language temporarily or fully, as the fact is that something like that should have never been proposed in the first place.

"Europe has not seen such an attack on Christianity since 1991, when the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted the disgraceful recommendation - Contribution of the Islamic civilisation to European culture," the weekly says.

Pointing to the document presented by Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli, Demokracija says that "these are no guidelines, but a pamphlet of a political agenda aimed at forcibly suppressing and destroying all the traditional and fundamental values of Europe".

Labelling Europe as the "most wonderful civilisation of all time", the weekly says that making interventions "in this reality and trying to erase history can only be the work of evil people".

Demokracija believes that the withdrawal of the guidelines is really only temporary and strategic, as "sooner or later they will push them through somewhere" in opposition not only to the Christian nature, but human nature in general.

"Dalli has repeatedly made it clear that she is the enemy of indigenous European nations, the heterosexual family and Christianity," the weekly adds under the headline Have a Nice Trip to the Pinkish Farout.

The reaction to the opposition to the guidelines was expected: reactionary, conservative and far-right forces are at work, the weekly says, while arguing that it was actually people with common sense who have raised their voice.

These people do not want to experiment with God's creations and traditional values, but the progressives have taken the familiar position that argues that the discourse of the former is violent and hostile.

"Normal Europeans, what is left of them, should now finally wake up and, despite their fatigue, stop allowing the madness in Brussels to continue to grow. It has all gone too far," concludes the commentary.

All our posts in this series are here

11 Nov 2021, 11:55 AM

STA, 10 November 2021 - Some 35,000 health and social care employees will benefit from a pay rise under an agreement initialled on Wednesday by two trade unions representing the staff and the government. Hospital nurses can expect the highest rise, of three to six wage brackets. 

Valued at nearly EUR 123 million, the deal brings higher wages to more than 80% of the employees in healthcare, 80% of employees in social care and 40% of support employees in those two activities, or a total of 200 different jobs.

The agreement was initialled on Wednesday by Health Minister Janez Poklukar and Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj, and the heads of the two trade unions, who said negotiations would continue to tackle other issues.

The rises, unofficially ranging from 4% to 25%, will become effective after the respective collective bargaining agreements are signed, which is expected to happen by the end of the week.

"Today, we are a step closer to the goal of a fairer remuneration of work performed by employees in healthcare. We'll resume talks to attain fair pay and decent work conditions for other jobs," said Slavica Mencingar, the head of the union of nursing staff in healthcare.

Irena Ilešič Čujovič, the head of the union of health and social care employees, said the pay deal would have to be followed up by adoption of work standards and norms, which they expect to happen by the end of the year.

The percentage of the pay rise will depend on the job, with the highest increase of between three to six brackets to benefit hospital nurses, in particular those working in intensive care units.

In social care, wages will be raised by four brackets. The rises will mainly benefit nursing staff at care homes, as well as staff in day centres, social services and home care.

Labour Ministry State Secretary Mateja Ribič was quoted by Radio Slovenija as saying that each bracket represented 4%, and that the staff who will have their pay raised by four brackets can count on about 20% higher pay.

According to Ilešič Čujovič, higher wages will also benefit psychologists, social workers and administrative staff in healthcare.

"We have at least started changing valuation of jobs in Group J to address cleaning, kitchen, laundry staff, receptionists and maintenance workers as indispensable links," the trade unionist said, adding that talks would resume in January.

Both her and Mencingar thanked Health Minister Poklukar for his commitment to talks, while Poklukar said the deal was but the beginning of normalisation of staffing situation in health and social care.

The goal is not only to prevent staff from leaving but also to boost staffing. However, Poklukar said the staffing crisis that had been deepening for years could not be fixed overnight.

The Labour Ministry has valued the financial impact of the agreed rises in social care at EUR 37 million, of which EUR 4 million is to be secured in the state budget and the public health insurer ZZZS is chip in EUR 17.4 million.

The difference is the amount that will affect prices of institutional care. Due to higher labour costs, these will increase by 5.6% on average, the ministry told the STA.

Meanwhile, the financial impact of the deal for healthcare is estimated at EUR 85.95 million, which is to be fully covered from the Health Insurance Institute (ZZZS).

09 Nov 2021, 21:20 PM

STA, 9 November 2021 - Slovenia's medical organisations have made an urgent appeal to citizens to do their best to avoid requiring urgent medical assistance over the next month or two, warning the healthcare system is about to collapse. 

The pressure of Covid patients on the health system is so huge, patients at the moment can no longer get some of the services that had been available before, heard the press conference following a meeting of medical organisations on Tuesday.

Over the next week they expect the situation to aggravate so that doctors at critical points in the system would be simultaneously attending to two patients in need of a ventilator, as there would not be enough staff that can help such patients or suitable beds, said Igor Dovnik, the head of the Association of Private Doctors and Dentists.

Bojana Beović, the head of the Medical Chamber, could not rule out the possibility that doctors might need to choose who got intensive aid, a situation that she said was one of the hardest that could happen to a doctor.

She said staff shortages were acute. All the staff was mobilised at the moment to be deployed where is urgently needed, in particular intensive care units, which need highly qualified staff. However, despite an all-out effort to ensure suitable level of care, the capacities are already stretched.

"This is an alarming situation that we can cope with through maximum solidarity of all health workers on the one hand and solidarity of people on the other who will understand the situation and contribute to making the situation manageable in some way," said Beović.

"Life is open, there are traffic accidents, accidents at work, other infections," she said, warning the workload is bigger than a year ago when the country was shut down. "If we want a normal life, keep schools, the economy open, we must be aware there's a price to this. We must do all activities in a way not to make that price too high."

The organisations, including the trade union of doctors and dentists, called on everyone to do their bit to avoid needing medical aid over the next month or two, including by avoiding situations or activities that could result in injury such as sports or reckless driving, or risking getting any infection.

Dovnik urged everyone who have not yet got vaccinated against Covid-19 to do so, and recommended getting a flu jab as well. "I don't think we could be so lucky to avoid flu two years in a row," he said.

06 Oct 2021, 16:34 PM

STA, 6 October - Vaccination against the flu will be free of charge for all Slovenian residents with health insurance this season after it was already free last season, the Health Ministry has told the STA. The National Institute of Public Health has ordered 360,000 doses of the vaccine.

The order exceeds the 290,000 doses available last year, when there was an exceptional interest in vaccination because it was strongly encouraged by health authorities. This was to prevent a collapse of healthcare in the event of major complications stemming from flu as the Covid-19 epidemic was gaining momentum.

For the 2020/2021 season, the authorities initially selected several vulnerable groups to qualify for free-of-charge flu vaccination, but expanded eligibility too all holders of health insurance, based on a provision from a coronavirus relief legislation.

Since the legislation is valid until the end of 2021, flu vaccination, which usually starts in the second half of October, will also be free of charge for all this season.

The flu season was rather atypical in 2020/21 with practically no case confirmed in the country, largely as a result of a lengthy school lockdown and other preventive coronavirus measures. However, a rise in respiratory diseases in children this autumn shows the coming virus season could be different.

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