Despite the economic crisis, Bulgariaâ€™s healthcare system will undergo a reform destined to allocate the limited existing funds in such a manner that will benefit doctors and patients alike.
In 2012, healthcare is expected to be among the priorities of the Bulgarian government, along with the construction of highways. Despite the economic crisis, the government has allocated more money from the state budget for the healthcare sector this year thus continuing the reform in the healthcare sector. This became clear at the final briefing of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov on New Yearâ€™s Eve on healthcare-related topics.
In early December 2011, PM Borissov made it one of the cabinetâ€™s goals to solve the issue with the debts of hospitals, including measures such as penalties and replacement of current hospital directors. Furthermore, Bulgariaâ€™s Health Minister Stefan Konstantinov promised not only personnel changes but also the unification of entire hospital wards in response to the expectations of Bulgarians for urgent reforms in that area.
The coming reforms are to reduce the number of hospitals in Bulgaria so that medics could work at one place but receive higher wages, while the budget for healthcare should be issued more effectively so that it benefits the patients.Â According to him, this does not constitute an administrative closing down of some hospitals but an effort for restructuring of hospitals that have insufficient staff and no patients.
â€œInstead of going bankrupt in a natural way, they should rather take the opportunity to restructure with help from EU fundingâ€, he said. The Prime Minister also firmly supports this idea.
â€œActually, the people who have hospitals with poor quality of treatment in their own towns are doomed by going thereâ€, the Premier pointed out. â€œLet the experts say that there are hospitals where neither the equipment nor the staff is at the appropriate level. For the patients it is therefore better to be taken by the ambulance at a larger hospital rather than be treated badly in the local hospital. This is the case today.â€
According to the Healthcare Minister Konstantinov, the bill brought in parliament at the end of 2011 only comes to confirm that healthcare remains a key priority for the government and the reform will continue.
Part of the reform is the introduction of an electronic health card that has been discussed for more than 10 years now. Work is under way now on the creation of an electronic prescription and electronic patient file. The system is expected to be ready in 2013 but only this year the government has started using EU funds for this large scale project. Bulgaria is one of few EU countries where healthcare has not been a governmental priority for many years of governments. But the electronic health card is part of the overall e-government system, stated Stefan Konstantinov.
â€œCurrently, the team of Deputy Minister Valery Borissov, who is responsible for e-government, is developing an electronic identifierâ€, Minister Konstantinov said. â€œWith this card, citizens will be able to use administrative services and review their health record. The great difficulty is how to design the overall system. The card is only an element and is an easy thing to do. Bank e-cards virtually cost less than 1 Lev and one can also use them for administrative services. So far, the system of expensive drugs spent some 2.4 million Leva but it is not yet operating and the money has been paid. Spending was done differently in the past. Now we have very little money, so we need to figure out the best approach to allocating and spending the budget. We can easily make a card for health services, then another one for administrative services, and then the digital signature. But this is not the right approach.â€
â€œIt would have been a very good solution if we had included the electronic chip for healthcare services in the new ID card that were issued some time ago, PM Boyko Borissov said with regret. In this way, citizens could have their ID card issued once and the use it for all services. However, we missed this opportunity. So now we have to seek another opportunity with another type of card. A much better option which was how things are done in Estonia has already been missed during the term of the previous government when it launched the competition for replacement of identity documentsâ€, Bulgariaâ€™s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov commented.
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