No end in sight for healthcare woes
Ljubljana, 5 December - The cornerstone of the government's health reform efforts collapsed this year as Health Minister Milojka Kolar Celarc failed to get support for a bill that would reorganise health insurance and secure more stable healthcare financing. The coalition did manage to push through a law designed to improve management of waiting lists at hospitals as well as one regulating concessions for private practitioners, which doctors unsuccessfully sought to challenge in a referendum. A law was also passed to bail out ailing hospitals with EUR 136m over the next two years. However, financing and waiting times remain problematic and hospitals keep overpaying for medical equipment. A grouped public procurement for stents failed as virtually all bids exceeded price ceilings, and the parliamentary inquiry investigating stent purchases found that these were hugely overpriced and that hospital purchasing departments acted in concert with suppliers and willingly violated public procurement legislation. The minister, who survived another ouster motion this year, also faced criticism over the situation at the Paediatric Clinic of the UKC Ljubljana hospital, where infighting and trading of accusations for allegedly preventable deaths further undermined public trust in the hospital's ability to treat children with congenital heart disease.