Friday, 18 April 2014

HN: Gov't, VZP quietly abandon plan to scrap redundant hospitals

ČTK |
17 January 2013

Prague, Jan 16 (CTK) - The state-run General Health Insurance Company (VZP) has silently given up its ambitious but unpopular plan to have selected hospitals scrapped, which the government expected to save hundreds of millions of crowns in the health sector a year, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) writes yesterday.

The government-sponsored attempt at the biggest change to the hospital network, aimed to close down redundant hospitals and ineffective hospital wards, is dead, HN writes.

Selected hospitals were to be eliminated or their operation reduced by the VZP not signing usual long-term contracts with them. The plan, joined by private insurers, raised a wave of protests of the public and of the hospital association (ACMN), and was sharply criticised by the political opposition.

The ACMN recommended that hospital directors do not sign other than usual long-term contracts with insurers, HN recalls.

Now that the government coalition has had its candidate Zdenek Kabatek elected new VZP general director, it has "ceased to spoil its own image by promoting the health sector's reform," HN writes in connection with the withdrawal of the unpopular plan by the VZP.

The VZP is now signing long-term contracts with all applicants, including small hospitals that originally figured in the list of twelve hospitals designed for scrapping, which had been laboriously completed for more than a year, HN writes.

"The project will have to be worked out on again and better. It has not succeeded in the way we expected," Petr Nosek, deputy health minister and newly appointed VZP board chairman, told the paper.

He reproached health insurers for not having released analyses with data mapping hospitals' medical results, equipment and staff, which could have persuaded people that not all 180 hospitals in the 10.5-million Czech Republic offer a top quality care, HN writes.

Originally, the austerity plan was to have acute beds completely scrapped in twelve and partly in other hospitals. Thousands of beds were to be scrapped and partly replaced by out-patient or long-term care wards. Some hospitals said they could not but close down as a result.

Instead of scrapping redundant beds, the VZP has to seek other ways to raise its revenues, the paper continues.

With the help of the government, the VZP plans to improve its budget by an accounting operation. The Finance Minister is planning to send the one-month payment for state insurees (children, pensioners, unemployment, the disabled etc), worth three billion crowns, in advance, HN writes.

This seemingly good news, however, indicates a definitive end of any real changes, the paper writes.

After the mid-2010 elections, the then new right-wing coalition promised a bold reform of the VZP. It has backpedalled on the plan now, a year and a half before the next elections, HN writes.

Improving the VZP's image is one of the main tasks of Kabatek, whom Health Minister Leos Heger (TOP 09) and Prime Minister Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS) chose for new VZP general director in autumn. The VZP has six million clients on whom it annually spends 150 billion crowns. It also finances most of the staff working in the country's health sector.

($1=19.207 crowns)

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