- 21 Apr 2016 9:00 AM
Last week, health workers’ trade unions turned down the government’s proposal for wage hikes. This would have increased the wages of doctors by 150,000 forints a month, and would have offered a 10 per cent increase to all nurses.
Trade unions found the rise proposed to nurses too low and demanded a 20-30 per cent increase instead. In the meantime, Napi.hu reported that public hospitals have now run up a total of unpaid bills amounting to 47.8 billion Forints (€154 million).
The health care system’s problems are not due to the lack of financial sources, Gabriella Lantos, CEO of a Budapest private health care centre writes on Index. Lantos dismisses the widely held opinion that the number of doctors in practice is low. She points out that although in the past 10 years as many as 10,000 doctors have left the country, there is still a ratio of 3.2 doctors to 1,000 inhabitants, while the average of all developed countries stands at 3.3.
On the other hand, there is a real shortage of nurses, so doctors are left without sufficient assistance, Lantos notes. There are too many hospitals that cannot provide quality service, she suggests, and identifies the distribution of funds across the health care sector as the main structural problem.
Doctors’ base salaries are very low by European standards, but they can supplement them through private practice. Some (mostly surgeons and other specialists) earn a lot from the ‘gratitude money’ common in Hungarian hospitals. As patients pay more gratitude money the more time they spend in hospitals, doctors have no incentives to rationalise a service paid for by taxpayers, Lantos remarks.
She estimates that if the current wasteful and unfair system were reformed, doctors could be offered a 35 per cent pay rise without any need to increase the total health care budget.
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