- 21 May 2012 9:00 AM
Patient rights guaranteed by laws
‘Hungarian healthcare was on the rise during that period, since it allowed for the emergence of major laws having an impact on healthcare,’ said Mihály Kökény, who was the third Minister of Welfare of the Horn Government, between 1996 and 1998 and as such was also responsible for the health sector.
The politician told the audience that he feels his biggest achievement as Minister was that Hungary was the first in the region to introduce patient rights regulations and establish patient rights institutions. ‘In addition, significant developments were brought about, in part with the help of the World Bank, such as the renewal of medical equipment in hospitals,’ recalled Mihály Kökény.
The Minister also mentioned that he regrets not having been able to realize the regional modernisation programme they developed, which would have helped bring about the decentralization of the health system.
Health sector preparations for EU accession
Árpád Gógl (1998-2000) highlighted that during his time as Minister, they managed to establish functioning systems for healthcare, training and postgraduate training. At the beginning of his leadership in the Ministry, his task was made easier by the already existing legal background, said the Minister. ‘During this period, preparations for EU accession were started, but no major health sector difficulties were identified,’ explained Árpád Gógl.
The Minister emphasized that shaping a proper training programme for residents was one of the accession requirements in the health sector. ‘The National Health Development Research Institute was established and the vaccination system was completed during this period,’ recalled Árpád Gógl, and added, ‘the privatization of general and paediatric practices, the development of the ambulance network, as well as the predecessor of the Act on the protection of non-smokers were also born at this time.’
An outstanding milestone: adoption of the Hospital Act
István Mikola, the second Minister of Health of the Orbán Government, spoke about his greatest four achievements during his one-and-a-half year term as Minister between 2001-2003. A significant achievement was the adoption of the “For A Healthy Nation” Public Health Programme. As part of this 10-year programme, general organized breast cancer screening was introduced. ‘Another major result was the preparation of the programme of financing pharmaceuticals, restricting profits of pharmaceutical producers,’ recalled the Minister.
The third achievement the politician highlighted was the introduction of full health insurance reimbursement of conservative dentistry, which was previously a serious public health issue. István Mikola thinks, the biggest success of his work as Minister was the adoption of the Hospital Act, covering the operation of hospitals as well as the legal status of medical doctors.
Health and social sectors united
Judit Csehák, who was the Minister for Health, Social and Family Affairs from 2002 highlighted that these 3 areas should join forces, because there are close ties between healthcare and the social background. The Minister said that they carried on the Public Health Programme launched during the previous Government.
She emphasized that during this period, health workers received a 50 percent wage increase. Judit Csehák added that they should have also introduced professional requirements in order to inspire greater performance. The Minister considered it a failure that the President of the Republic of Hungary did not sign the Hospital Act and the Government did not submit the draft Act on the legal status of health workers to Parliament.
Legal harmonization in healthcare
Mihály Kökény described his second term as a Minister (2003-2004) as a complicated period burdened with several conflicts and felt that it was less successful compared to his first term. EU accession was during this period, reminded the Minister, thus there was a lot of work carried out in this field, legal harmonization and the preparation of the sector for accession provided numerous tasks, therefore he considers this preparatory the greatest success of this period, which also proved to be a substantial learning period.
Jenő Rácz, who led the Ministry of Health between 2004 and 2006, emphasized: everyone appointed to this position, will have to face financial and economic problems. During his term, they continued the health programmes initiated during the previous cycle and at the same time developed the child health, the emergency, the oncology and the cardiovascular health programmes – reminded the Minister.
‘This was complemented by the health chapter of the “100 Steps Programme” of the Government, as well as the health related parts of the European Union’s financial programming period of 2007-2013,’ said Jenő Rácz and added, ‘the election campaign contained an additional health programme.’
Difficulties and failures
Ágnes Horváth, the second Minister of Health of the second Gyurcsány Government, reminded that during the ministership of her predecessor, Lajos Molnár, several rather important acts had been adopted and the task of their stabilization was left to her.
The Minister mentioned three issues which she considered a failure: the success of the referendum for the abolition of the visit fee; the withdrawal of the Health Insurance Act, as this prevented the fulfillment of the insurance reform. Ágnes Horváth felt that the third greatest failure was that the Capacity Act they had adopted is still in force, even though the intention of the leaders of the health sector was to keep it in force only for a year.
Single risk pooling
Tamás Székely, the Minister of Health for the period between 2008 and 2010, highlighted that Hungary needs a social insurance system based on a single risk pooling. That is why he began his ministership with the review of the Health Insurance Act, he added and emphasized that this period was significant in regard to the utilization of EU funds, as well as to the financing protocol related legislation.
The crisis is making healthcare developments difficult
‘It was very interesting to listen to the predecessors, because the current Government is attempting to carry on some of their achievements, while other ones have already been dissolved,’ said Miklós Szócska.
The Minister of State for Health reminded that the current Government had to face severe difficulties in the field of health as well, and these problems were further engraved by the fact that although at the time of the change in government, the growth-friendly economic policy looked like a possibility, however, since the deepening global economic crisis or the situation in Greece, the situation has changed drastically, further deepening difficulties of the health sector as well.
Miklós Szócska said that the first serious achievement of the Orbán Government was the change in the methodological paradigm of health policy, which supports the involvement of professionals in the preparation of legislation from the first moment. The Minister of State mentioned another important partial achievement, which was the wage raise of health workers, a health sector crisis inherited from the previous Government. ‘The increase in wages is only “fire-fighting” which helped maintain operation, but progress must be made in the future,’ declared Miklós Szócska.
The Minister of State mentioned another issue, which is the almost complete lack of possibility in making strategic resource generating decisions in the middle of a global economic crisis. In addition, he promised that the Government would continue the public health programmes it started.
This is about humans
Miklós Réthelyi emphasized the importance of healthcare and said that humans are the nation’s resource. As the Minister for National Resources, he had to co-ordinate several very different areas. ‘However,’ Miklós Réthelyi added, ‘these various fields are all inter-related and it is very important that they learn from and build on each other.’