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August 3, 2021

Health Minister Nicolae Banicioiu: “Cash in envelopes will no longer be seen in Romania”

Health Minister Nicolae Banicioiu stated on Monday that the 25 per cent salary hike will be applied to all categories within the health system, but also that bribes for doctors will be history.
Banicioiu pointed out that hiking the salaries of medical doctors and auxiliary staff is justified and “very clear” considering “the very low salary level in the Romanian health system.”
“We want quality health services, quality medical care, but “we don’t want to pay.” I would like to contradict from the start the idea that I have seen that money is being taken from the patients. First of all, before 2014, when I became Health Minister, the list of subsidized drugs was entirely blocked. 40 newly subsidized drugs have been introduced since I became minister, the first large package of subsidized drugs. This year, the money saved by updating drug prices will go to new molecules,” Banicioiu stated.
“The October 1 salary hike covers all categories within a hospital – doctors, auxiliary staff, technical, economic and administrative personnel, accountants. The 25 per cent salary hike will come into force for all,” the minister emphasized.
Asked what he bases his certainty that he will be able to support this hike on, Banicioiu stated that he stakes on the Government’s “courage.”
“We are the first Government that has had the courage to take such a decision. This is the first major salary hike in the last ten years if I’m not mistaken. It’s the first Government that had the courage to move toward a substantial salary hike for doctors and nurses in the health system,” the Health Minister stated.

One of the anti-bribery solutions: private medical examinations in public hospitals

In what concerns Victor Ponta’s proposal to legalize the use of cash envelopes in hospitals, Banicioiu pointed out that any extra payment at the end of the medical procedure will be made at the hospital’s pay office, which will collect a tax of 16 per cent. “Nobody wants a medical procedure to be conditional. In Romania we should no longer talk about what you have mentioned: cash envelopes, extra payments. There are states that have far greater experience than Romania in this domain, the United States, European states that have a system worthy of admiration and from which we can draw our inspiration. One of the solutions is the one many of us have seen in Europe – the possibility of receiving private medical examinations in public hospitals, examinations offered by doctors working in the public health system. It’s one of the solutions. (…) You want to show your gratitude or to donate a sum of money to the hospital, again this issue should be well regulated. Even now there is the possibility, but that is why I asked the College of Medical Doctors for a point of view, because the legislation has to be improved, but also at a personal level, we are waiting for proposals. Cash envelopes will disappear from Romania, considering all the rules and solutions envisioned,” the Health Minister concluded.
Concerning this issue, the Sanitas Trade Union Federation stated in a press release that it has negotiated with the Government only salary hikes and facilities for health system personnel, while the Government’s initiative to legalize payments from patients as a result of the ICCJ decision came as a result of the doctors’ pressure.
“Sanitas has negotiated only salary hikes and facilities for health system, social security and medical-social personnel. Nothing more. The measures taken by the Government to protect medical doctors (as a result of the High Court’s decision) were the consequences of pressure coming from this professional category and were not included at any moment on the list of Sanitas Federation demands, nor in our strategy; we simply explained what was discussed,” the trade union federation pointed out.
Premier Victor Ponta announced on August 18 the hiking of health system salaries by 25 per cent starting on October 1. Also back then, the Premier asked the Justice Minister to come up with a draft law that would eliminate the penal responsibility of health system personnel provided patients’ financial contributions are not a condition for the offering of medical services, are offered post-treatment and are taxed. The Medical Doctors’ Alliance, a Facebook group, criticized the Government intention to legalize patients’ payments, as did Transparency International Romania.

“All people have to pick up their health cards”

Concerning the insured patients’ mandatory use of health cards in exchange for medical services free of charge, with the exception of emergency medical services, a measure that will be introduced on September 1, the minister encouraged the population to use the cards.
“All people should understand that they have to pick up their health cards. Let’s make an effort for things to return to normal. We are preparing for the complete IT solution, so that early next year every insured patient would have an electronic status, the entire list of expenditures the health system incurred with that patient,” Banicioiu said.
Vasile Ciurchea, Head of the National Health Bureau, stated at a press conference on Tuesday that those who did not received their health cards are still insured and will benefit from medical services.

Elena Udrea: “Legalizing bribes for doctors is humiliating; Gov’t members realized it’s a blunder”

Elena Udrea stated on Tuesday, at the headquarters of the High Court of Justice (ICCJ) that the proposal to legalize “bribes for doctors” is humiliating and the “members of Government” realized they made a huge blunder because in this way in the future even bribery for civil servants could be legalized.
“I believe it is humiliating to legalize bribes for doctors. I was glad to see that the Facebook protest movement of doctors refused this proposal, and in the meantime I see that even the members of Government realized it is a huge blunder because using this principle even for civil servants who have low salaries, why wouldn’t we legalize bribes within the public administration too, within mayoralties, ministries. This isn’t the solution, and this measure shows a weak Government that finds illegal payments from the population to be the only means and solution to ensure decent incomes for doctors. The solution is for the possibility for doctors to be paid according to their work, to the quality and volume of their work, to be created through the doctors’ contracts with hospitals. This proposal actually existed in the old health law that the Boc Government, whose member I was, had promoted. But there were some street protests, that is why the Boc Government fell. This too was a good aspect,” Elena Udrea said.

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