STA, 10 June 2019 - Coalition partners and ministers agreed at Monday's summit that healthcare and the pension system would be the priorities of Slovenia's budgets in 2020 and 2021. Each will get EUR 200-300 million more annually.
Nevertheless, Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj said as he spoke to the press after the Brdo pri Kranju meeting the budgets would still be in surplus.
The coalition and government partners met to agree further steps in planning the budgets for the coming two years.
The government is due to send the draft budgets to parliament by 1 October based on a budgeting decree which was passed in April.
The decree caps expenses for 2020 at EUR 10.45 billion, whereas for 2021, they can be a bit higher, at EUR 10.50 million.
Bertoncelj said he had presented the planned revenue and the spending ceilings for the state budget, the health and pension purses as well as for local government.
He expects the government to meet for its first session dedicated to the budget on 4 July, by when the ceilings for individual budget users should be ready.
Although he does not expect everyone to be happy with the distribution of funds, Bertoncelj intends to insist on the ceilings set in April, since this would keep the budgets within the fiscal rule.
The coalition also agreed to have the budget surplus at around 1% of the country's GDP, while Bertoncelj would also like to cut pubic debt to 65% and 61% of GDP, respectively, with a view to have a structurally balanced budget by 2022.
"The budgets for the next two years will have to be within this framework, and we committed to it today," he stressed.
The budgets will be drafted on the basis of the government's macroeconomic forecaster IMAD's outlook, which puts Slovenia's growth for 2020 at 3.1% and at 2.8% for 2021.
Bertoncelj pointed out Slovenia's GDP growth was now double the eurozone average, and its public debt was being reduced the fastest among all eurozone members.
Health Minister Aleš Šabeder, on the other hand, presented the situation in healthcare, noting the priorities were a long-term care bill, improving the management of medical organisations and reducing waiting times.
Happy the healthcare system can count on an additional EUR 400-600 million in 2020-2021, he said the funds would have to be spent in line with the priorities.
"All resources on the market will probably have to be identified and a decision made on how to involve them in cutting the long waiting times," said Šabeder.
Prime Minister Marjan Šarec agreed, but was quick to add this should not be a cover for "permanent privatisation" of the healthcare system.
Šabeder stressed the long waiting times would first be tackled where they were the severest, announcing the first pilot project for orthopaedics.
He, however, admitted his ministry was just starting to tackle the issue, stressing waiting time records would first have to be sorted out.
Šabeder believes more funds would have to be provided to finance not just individual doctors but entire teams of doctors and nurses to cut the waiting periods.
He said the bill on long-term care could be adopted by the end of the year, but noted it was too early to discuss funding, as several scenarios were still being studied.
The coalition partners were generally happy with the summit, with Defence Minister Karl Erjavec, the leader of the Pensioners' Party, saying the budgets should make it possible to meet the country's commitments to NATO and to raise pensions.
Šarec, on the other hand, said names of Slovenia's possible candidate for the European commissioner had not been discussed.
STA, 16 April 2019 - Slovenia is one of the most environmentally friendly countries in the world, according to the Good Country Index, compiled by analyst and professor Simon Anholt from the University of East Anglia. It ranks fourth among 153 countries in terms of its positive contribution to the planet and climate, preceded only by Norway, Switzerland and Portugal.
Slovenia did particularly well in the implementation of environmental agreements and reducing the use of substances that cause ozone depletion.
It also got good scores for ecological footprint and exports of dangerous pesticides, and it was close to average in terms of the share of renewable energy sources.
The photo at the top of the page shows the River Soča, a great destination for outdoor sports - read more about it here
The Good Country Index measures how much a country contributes to the planet and the human race, through their policies and behaviours.
Slovenia ranked 16th in terms of its contribution to culture and 21st for its contribution to the global science and technology. It is 45th in terms of its global contribution to the world order and the 47th most important advocate of prosperity and equality.
Slovenia is also 65th in efforts towards health and well-being, and 128th when it comes to promotion of international peace and security.
You can see Slovenia’s results, in more detail, here
April 17, 2019
Monday’s edition of Tednik, a news show from the national broadcaster, reported that Croatian women have been facing increasing difficulties in finding clinics that perform abortions at home, which brings them in growing numbers across the border to Slovenia.
According to Tednik, Brežice hospital, (the first Slovenian hospital on the way from Zagreb) has seen a 25% increase in Croatians seeking abortions in the last three months.
Although the procedure is legal in Croatia, almost 60% of Croatian gynaecologists, or 186 out of 322 ,refuse to perform abortions, according to Tednik. The problem is further acerbated by the fact that nurses and anaesthesiologists are also allowed to invoke the right to object on moral grounds, which, among other things, also leads to the painful procedure often being carried out without anaesthesia.
Another reason why Croatian women prefer to travel to Slovenia is the availability of an easier method of chemically induced abortion, which is only performed at two Croatian clinics, in Rijeka and Pulj. Furthermore, the general attitude towards women who chose an abortion is helpful and supportive in Slovenia, compared to the increasingly hostile environment in Croatia with regard to women and their reproductive rights. A recent case Tednik reported on involves a Croatian woman who had been molested by a close relative and got pregnant in the process. Croatian doctors refused to perform an abortion as it would mean “destruction of evidence”. With some help of the NGOs, the woman eventually managed to get the procedure done in Slovenia.
Abortion is part of the Slovenia’s health insurance plan, but not for Croatian citizens, who also have to pay for it in Croatia, if they’re lucky enough to find someone who is willing to perform it at all. Travelling to Slovenia is also not an option for everyone, as some people cannot afford to, while others do not want others to perhaps learn of the true purpose of their cross-border journey.
While Slovenia also allows gynaecologists to refuse to perform an abortion on moral grounds, only 10 out of 296 have invoked this right.
The legislation Slovenia and Croatia inherited from Yugoslavia was liberal with regard to family planning. However, following the independence of both, Slovenia was mostly led by liberal governments, while Croatia turned right, which pushed for a Catholic re-sacralisation of society.
A work group of the Croatian Parliament is currently drafting a new abortion legislation. The draft was supposed to be finished this March, but it wasn’t. The position of the current Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, who is supervising the drafting of the new law, suggests that we might see even more Croatian women coming to Slovenia for abortions in the future. Mr. Kujundžić believes that life begins with conception, that abortion is an act of evil, and that Church should be included in the debate over women’s reproductive rights.
Mladina: GP resignations aimed at privatising healthcare
STA, 12 April 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina accuses the trade union of GPs of abusing their power at the cost of patients. This week's editorial refers to a document it says proves that the trade union Praktikum's head Igor Muževič orchestrated the current crisis among GPs to force the government's hand and ultimately lead to privatising public healthcare.
"It is a sad day for Slovenian public healthcare. The aim of these actions is not to improve the system, but to dismantle it," Grega Repovž, the editor-in-chief writes under the headline Foul Play.
He says that Mladina has obtained a signed document from 2017 which proves that Muževič's plan had been to provoke a crisis that would force the state to privatise healthcare.
Privatising healthcare would essentially turn medical practitioners into businessmen. If the trade union's demands are met, GPs would remain part of the public sector that would provide them with the necessary infrastructure, however, they would get paid as private individuals, Repovž writes.
This is an abuse of what the trade union struggle stands for. It essentially turns patients into hostages, and it would not take long for other medical practitioners to demand the same working conditions, effectively leading to a collapse of the public healthcare system.
Repovž writes that doctors' wages are among the highest in the public sector. He says the attempt to increase their income by branching out into the private sector is unacceptable and unethical, especially since it is disguised as an industrial action.
Demokracija: Double standards on media freedom
STA, 11 April 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija plays down the importance of Hungary's protest over the weekly Mladina's cover portraying PM Viktor Orban making a Nazi salute in its latest editorial. It is bothered that the freedom of speech was not defended so eagerly when PM Marjan Šarec gave instructions regarding media advertising.
Hungary's protest sent to Mladina and the Slovenian Foreign Ministry was labelled a reflection of the idea of a complete media control, but the truth is that the "incident" will have absolutely no impact on the Slovenian media, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says.
Thus, the diplomatic note sent by Hungary cannot be a form of pressure on the media or their editorial policy but merely a reaction to a controversial image of a democratically elected prime minister of a neighbouring country.
According to Biščak, much more dangerous for media freedom and the freedom of expression was Šarec's call to state-owned companies to refrain from advertising in "disobedient media".
"Is this really normal and ordinary? Is this freedom? Is this media freedom? Is this democratic? Is this in line with European values, which this government praises so much only when attacking someone, while resorting to rhetoric and measures of dictators when someone holds up a mirror in front of its face."
There is no middle way when it comes to the freedom of speech and media freedom. Either we have them or we don't. Media freedom cannot be only when the left has something to say. It is supreme hypocrisy and has nothing to do with real freedom, Biščak concludes the commentary headlined Matthew 23:27-28.
All our posts in this series can be found here
STA, 4 April 2019 - Health Minister Aleš Šabeder has signed a decree that allows hiring up to 90 doctors from non-EU countries this year in order to deal with an acute shortage of general practitioners in Slovenia.
Šabeder announced the measure for the public broadcaster TV Slovenija and commercial broadcaster POP TV late last evening.
The ministry also sent to the Medical Chamber yesterday a proposal for speciality training for 49 trainee doctors this year, a "measure that will have an effect on the system only in a few years' time".
A favourable number of trainee doctors is also planned for 2020, but there will be fewer in 2023 and 2024.
He said these were the first short-term measures agreed in the meetings earlier this week with representatives of GPs and of the community health centres grappling with the most acute staff shortages.
The decree allowing hiring a total of 90 doctors from third countries adds 55 doctors to work in primary healthcare to the 35 doctors for which medical organisations expressed the need a while ago, explained the minister.
The ministry today submitted for public consultation until 11 April a proposal lifting the ceiling on doctor job offerings by 56 from the 35 posts determined in December, which will allow the import of 91 doctors from third countries. More than half (55) will be for GPs.
The minister also announced that further measures would follow to implement the agreed workload standards and norms and deal with the crisis which erupted after GPs started giving notices in protest at excessive workload.
FIDES, the trade union of doctors and dentists, announced that, on 1 June, all doctors would start sticking to the workload standards agreed in the collective bargaining agreement after the 2016 strike.
"It will be necessary to secure additional financing sources, and measures are also being taken in this direction," Šabeder said, indicating that these measures could be expected by June or July.
In response to FIDES's announcement of what is in effect a work-to-rule strike, the trade union of nurses said that, being members of medical teams, nurses "will work as much as doctors do".
The union's boss, Slavica Mencinger, told the STA today that a "major problem will be to ascertain who will be the one to turn away patients, to triage them and answer for the consequences".
STA, 1 April 2019 - GPs around the country are stepping up pressure in the face of the increasing workload and red tape. As announced, 23 doctors of the Kranj community health centre tendered their resignations on Monday, according to the head of the primary healthcare of Gorenjska, Jože Veternik.
The resignations come after the doctors threatened to quit their job as of 1 April unless the conditions are created enabling them to carry out their work safely and in line with medical standards.
Under the law, doctors have a 60-day notice period. If the situation is not resolved within the next 60 days, the GPs will have to be let go at the end of May, which means Kranj's primary healthcare would collapse, Veternik said.
According to the head of the Kranj Community Health Centre, Lilijana Gantar Žura, 23 of the 34 doctors tendered their resignation, which means 40,000 people would be left without their GP at the end of May.
"This is a serious alarm to which all stakeholders need to respond quickly," Gantar Žura said, calling for talks between the Health Ministry, government and the healthcare purse manager ZZZS.
"Doctors no longer believe promises and will withdraw their resignations only if things are agreed on, written down and signed," she said.
Veternik said they were counting on solving the situation this month. "The [health] minister paid a visit on Friday and we exchanged views. Our suggestion was for the minister to try to meet at least part of the doctors' demands in April," he said.
Health Minister Aleš Šabeder met the head of the Praktikum trade union of GPs, Igor Muževič, in Ljubljana today. No concrete measures were agreed, but both labelled the meeting constructive. A task force will meet again on Wednesday.
The meeting also seemed to have cleared out Friday's misunderstanding when doctors refused to meet the minister after being denied having their representatives present at the meetings between the minister and the leaderships of the community health centres.
"The minister has indeed been open for talks with trade unions all along, which we could see today," Muževič said after meeting Šabader.
The minister said he was aware solutions would need to be found quickly. "We have a month, two at the most to settle the matter and reach an agreement," he said.
Among the solutions discussed today is importing doctors from abroad, which Šabeder warned would take time because of the necessary legislative changes. "Quick calculations show that we would need approximately 50 doctors in the short-term at this point," the minister said.
The trade union also proposed an emergency bill to prevent patients who cannot be admitted by a GP in their community health centre to be sent off to another centre. In turn, the understaffed centre would be given an option to hire a doctor from abroad, a retired doctor or a freelancer to ensure primary care to all patients.
Vetrnik thinks it is crucial to change the ceiling for accepting new patients. Last year the ceiling was at 1,995 patients per GP, while this year's ceiling is the average of a particular community health centre.
Currently, the average patient index for Slovenia is some 2,400 or 1,850 patients per a team of doctors, but in Kranj a team of doctors deals with some 2,000 patents, which is 10% more than an average Slovenian doctor and 25% above the 2017 agreement.
"This must have been the last straw that caused the doctors' resignations in Kranj, and the announcements of resignation in Celje and Maribor," Veternik said.
Doctors want the ministry and the ZZZS to endorse the standards and norms from the 2017 strike-averting agreement.
Later in the day, GPs from the Ptuj Community Health Centre joined the calls for change in primary healthcare, or else 16 GPs would collectively resign on 1 June, the Ptuj health centre said in a release.
The Ptuj GPs demand that once a doctor has 1,895 patients, they no longer accept new patients, and the figure should be gradually cut, by 5% annually, to eventually drop to 1,500.
The doctors in Kranj were the first to protest against the plan to increase the patient index, and stopped accepting new patients already in February. They also addressed a letter to Samo Fakin, who in the meantime resigned as health minister due to ill health, in which they threatened to quit by the end of March.
All of the 15 GPs at the Celje Community Health Centre issued a similar threat last month, while three doctors at the Nazarje Community Health Centre have already resigned.
GPs in Ajdovščina announced they would do no more overtime and GPs in Grosuplje announced they would stop accepting new patients. The GPs of the Maribor Community Health Centre threatened to quit their job on 1 June unless the situation is resolved.
All our stories about healthcare in Slovenia are here
Mladina: Who is opposed to changing the system of supplementary health insurance, and why?
STA, 29 March 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina looks into the reasons for the opposition to the idea to abolish supplementary health insurance in its latest commentary, noting that it is more than 15 years old, much older than the Left, which usually gets credit for the idea.
"The people who are screaming about excessive public spending are also screaming about the Left (and the coalition) wanting to take EUR 500m away from healthcare by forcing the idea," editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says in Crazy World.
"The idea to abolish supplementary health insurance is much older than the Left. It is more than 15 years old. It has been present since it was revealed that some lobbies are using it to literally cut away a part of public money they collect instead of the state."
According to Repovž, these lobbies are turning this money around on financial markets, take their 10% and then return it to the state. "This would have been abolished everywhere long ago. But not in Slovenia. Let's see why this is. Because the reasons are actually very banal, shallow and evil."
The coalition is not actually proposing abolition of supplementary health insurance, but its merging with compulsory insurance. The catch is that people with lower income would pay less, up to 20 euros a month, and those with higher income would pay more, up to 70 euros.
A majority of the decision-making MPs, officials, directors - the entire upper class, would pay more, and the thing is that they do not want to pay more. They instead let three private insurers to get their EUR 60m every year from the people.
In short, the entire upper class is pretending ignorance and does not want to shoulder its share of costs for healthcare, the share proportionate to their income. This is why they are willing to lie that the coalition (and the Left) wants to take EUR 500m away from the healthcare sector.
"Well, the question is on whose side the new health minister is. He has not been convincing so far, but he belongs to the party of the prime minister, who has committed to implementing this objective in the agreement with the Left."
It is very easy to explain the reasons for abolition of supplementary health insurance to the public, for example with the situation of general practitioners, concludes the commentary.
Demokracija: Fidesz helps EPP ahead of EU election
STA, 28 March 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija says in its latest commentary that the European People's Party (EPP) members made the right decision in not expelling the party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and thereby diminishing EPP leader Manfred Weber's chances of becoming the next president of the European Commission.
Last week, Weber faced the serious threat of a discord in the EPP right ahead of the EU elections, and a possible break-up of the group was not excluded either, as some parties had announced they would leave the EPP if Fidesz was expelled or forcedly suspended.
At first, it seemed that a majority of the EPP members were leaning towards such a proposal from 13 members, as this was supposed to be the key to success of Christian democrats in the May elections, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says in EPP's Training Day in Brussels.
But after the speech by Janez Janša, the head of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), who seriously warned that such a decision could cause irreparable damage, the scales tipped to the other side and Orban's proposal for a six-month suspension was accepted.
A continuation of the dispute would mostly benefit the political groups on the left, as socialist Frans Timmermans would easily beat Weber, Biščak says, noting that the solution was temporary, as everybody is waiting for the election result.
The compromise between the EPP and Fidesz is the best solution for European conservatives at the moment, as they remain (at least seemingly) unified, and one can say that Orban did a favour to Weber.
As projections suggest, Orban will be a great winner of the EU elections in Hungary, and Weber's chances of becoming the next president of the European Commission would have dropped drastically had Fidesz left the EPP, as it would be followed by more parties. Actually, it would be mission impossible, concludes the commentary.
All our posts in this series can be found here
STA, 27 March 2019 - Aleš Šabeder is taking charge of the Ministry of Health, replacing Samo Fakin, who stepped down at the beginning of March, citing health reasons. Before becoming director general of the UKC Ljubljana hospital a year ago, Šabeder had no experience in the healthcare sector.
As the new health minister Šabeder will be confronted with many challenges such as healthcare reforms and navigating through various political interests.
Born in 1970 in the city of Ptuj, Šabeder has a degree in economics. Most of his experience stems from working in the corporate sector, including at one of the senior posts at the fuel trader Petrol (2006-08), and serving as one of the regional directors for wholesale and retail at the retailer Mercator (2008-14).
In January 2014, he took over at the seed manufacturer Semenarna Ljubljana as director general, marketing director, and exports department manager before moving on four years later to become director general of UKC Ljubljana, the country's main medical centre employing around 8,000 people.
UKC Ljubljana generated a loss of EUR 23m last year, up considerably compared to the target loss of EUR 15m. This was after the hospital made a deficit of EUR 33.5m in 2017, which was turned into a surplus of EUR 46.4m after the hospital received almost EUR 80m under the government hospital bailout plan.
On his appointment at UKC, the hospital's council cited his management experience and experience in negotiating with trade unions; however, the doctors' trade union and several political parties considered him a political appointee, supported by the then ruling Modern Centre Party (SMC).
During his presentation in parliament, Šabeder was criticised for failing to offer concrete solutions, and he admitted he would have to get briefed on the situation fast.
He pledged to endeavour for accessible and quality public health system, one that is "neither left nor right", but remains in the professional domain rather than a political one.
Šabeder is fluent in English, German, Croatian, and Serbian. He is married and has a daughter.
All our stories on healthcare in Slovenia are here
STASTA, 26 March 2019 - Aleš Šabeder, the nominee for health minister, was confirmed by the relevant parliamentary committee on Tuesday, with 12 MPs voting in favour and two against. He announced a systematic approach to cut waiting times and red tape, and an overhaul of the health care and health insurance act.
As the hearing started yesterday, the candidate said that the people must be provided with accessible and quality public health services, adding that he had got well acquainted with the complexity and the needs of the Slovenian healthcare system.
One of his first priorities will be to revise waiting lists on the national level and then prepare measures to cut waiting times such as setting up additional programmes and focus on the areas where the number of patients is rising.
The system of appointments needs to be revised as well, and paperwork should be reduced to relieve the burden on doctors who are already struggling with excessive workload. They need efficient IT support, he believes.
Touching on the problems on the primary level, he said that Slovenia simply did not have enough GPs, so structural changes were needed in this area to relieve the pressure on the secondary and tertiary levels.
Today, Šabeder said he was ready to cooperate with all parties and listen to their proposals. He is in talks with candidates for state secretaries at the ministry, "who will not be politically appointed, they will be experts."
Regarding the idea to abolish supplementary health insurance, he said this would require a stable and long-term source of financing. Possible solutions are a higher contribution rate, a healthcare tax, and levies on alcohol, tobacco and sugary drinks.
Quizzed by MPs, Šabeder admitted that "at this moment I don't know what the best solution is", but added that he was not connected with any healthcare insurers and not in conflict of interest.
Regarding the shortage of GPs, he reiterated that the number of specialisations should be increased and encourage students to study family medicine.
Corruption in the procurement of medical equipment should be fought by introducing national standards which would apply to all healthcare institutions, he said, adding that public procurement legislation should also be amended.
Šabeder, who has been director of the UKC Ljubljana hospital for over a year, is set to be appointed health minister by the National Assembly on Wednesday, to succeed Samo Fakin, who stepped down at the beginning of March for health reasons.
He told the STA after the vote he was happy he had managed to also convince members of the opposition, adding that he believed that he would get the required majority tomorrow.
Šabeder commented on the hearing by saying that there were a lot of open issues in healthcare. "I know that I'm sitting in a hot sea and that there are many challenges, which we can resolve with consensus and agreement."
STA, 22 March 2019 - Threats by dozens of general practitioners around the country to quit in the face of a recent decision to increase the number of patients GPs are expected to cover have been making headlines in recent days. Matters seem to be spiralling out of control, as medical students have also been showing no interest to pursue a career in general practice.
While tensions over increasing red tape for GPs and their general workload have been mounting for years, the situation seems to have escalated as a result of the financing and organisational plan for public healthcare in 2019.
The plan, put forward by healthcare purse manager ZZZS and confirmed by the government, raises the permitted number of patients per GP. The increase also affects health centres that have been performing above that national average, which has been scrapped as a reference point.
The first to protest were 21 doctors in Kranj, who already stopped accepting new patients in February. They also addressed a letter to Samo Fakin, who in the meantime resigned as health minister due to ill health, in which they threatened to quit by the end of March.
All of the 15 GPs at the Celje Health Centre issued a similar threat earlier this week, while three doctors at the Nazarje Health Centre have already resigned.
Moreover, on Thursday doctors at the Ajdovščina Health Centre, which has seen a number of retirements in the recent period, announced they would no longer perform overtime work.
Doctors' organisations are demanding solutions that will allow GPs to do their job in line with professional standards. They say that the recommended patient index is 1,500, that the currently valid ceiling is 1,895, while the actual Slovenian average stands at 2,406.
However, the ZZZS argued that enforcing the ceiling would mean 325,000 people in Slovenia remaining without primary healthcare.
"Every stakeholder in the system shares some responsibility for solving this problem together. It however cannot be solved in the way proposed by some doctors, by starting to reject patients at 1,895, since this would even violate the constitutional right to healthcare," the ZZZS said.
Solutions highlighted by the ZZZS include appropriate education policy planning, meaning securing enough GPs, and a reduction of administrative burdens. It is also looking for ways to secure more funding.
"The management of health centres also have a number of tools at their disposal and can above all use reallocation to secure a more equal distribution of burdens among doctors," the ZZZS wrote.
There are currently 950 GPs in Slovenia along with 315 GP trainees and according to February data, the workload of 42% or of 595 family and children's doctors did not exceed the Slovenian average.
The Health Ministry, which is being run temporarily by Prime Minister Miro Šarec since Fakin's resignation, says it is drawing up measures that will resolve things in a systemic manner.
It announced fewer administrative tasks, a new financial model for primary healthcare that will be stimulative, and a call for applications for 80 to 90 GP speciality training spots in this year.
The problem however is that interest for a career in general practice has been very modest. Only 13 application were filed for 64 spots made available in a call last spring and eight in the autumn call that offered 60 spots.
What is more, health centres did not manage to find new GP staff even though additional funding had been secured for the purpose.
The head of the family doctors' trade union Praktikum, Igor Muževič proposed the impasse could be bridged with the inclusion of foreign doctors. He however added that no dialogue exists between the union and decision makers.
The situation was meant to be discussed today by the parliamentary Healthcare Committee, but the session was cancelled because it was not certain the representatives of the Health Ministry would be able to attend.
All our stories on healthcare in Slovenia can be found here
STA, 25 February 2019 - A dentist from north-eastern Slovenia has been found guilty of discriminating against an HIV patient in what is the first such ruling in Slovenia, a decision considered a key milestone in discrimination case law.
This is the first time a healthcare employee was found guilty of discriminating against an HIV patient, the newspaper Večer says on Monday about the court case that was closed to the public.
The dentist was ordered to pay EUR 2,700 in compensation to her former patient by the Maribor Higher Court in mid-2018.
The HIV-infected man saw the dentist in March 2016 and told her during the first visit that he was being treated for HIV. The dentist sent him for a dental x-ray.
The next week, when he came back for treatment, she told him he should get a new dentist. In court, the dentist claimed that she sent him away because she had only one set of particular instruments, which she could not sterilise in one afternoon.
However, both the first and the second instance courts ruled against her. The patient was eventually admitted by another dentist working at the same health centre, Večer reports.
The man reported the incident to Patient's Rights Ombudsman Vlasta Cafnik, who turned for help to the Medical Chamber but did not receive any response despite sending several emails and letters to several people in the organisation.
The patient also turned to the healthcare inspectorate, which responded that the Medical Chamber was in charge of such issues. He wrote to the chamber as well but received no answer and ultimately opted to hire a lawyer.
A mediation with the dentist was launched. It took a year before she wrote him an email, saying that she was aware that her treatment was demeaning and discriminatory.
The patient, who felt that the apology was not sincere, decided to take the dentist to court after her malpractice insurance company rejected his complaint.
She was found guilty at the first instance in April 2018. She appealed but the Higher Court upheld the first instance ruling in July 2018 and she ultimately paid the EUR 2,700 fine.
In response to the newspaper report about the case on Monday, the Medical Chamber said it was unacceptable to turn away a patient infected with a contagious disease.
"It needs to be taken into consideration, however, that such a case may affect organisation of work in the sense of rescheduling the appointment of the patient or other patients to ensure safe treatment of everyone present.
"All health staff has a duty to act in a way so as not to expose other patients to the risk of infection," the chamber said in a release.
The chamber said that it had received queries about the case from the patents' rights ombudsman in the previous term. In this term oversight was conducted with the dentist but "no departure from expert doctrine or work in comparable doctor's offices was established".