Hungarian doctors ask public support for improvements to healthcare

I must admit that over the years I have developed a somewhat negative attitude toward what Hungarians call the “orvostársadalom,” that is, the members of the medical profession, especially its leading lights. In the last 25 years they managed to thwart all attempts at reforming the whole rotten system. The hysteria that surrounded the suggestions of the ministry of health under the leadership of Lajos Molnár was outright disgusting. Hospital directors refused to collect minimal co-payments even if the money would have benefited their hospitals. So did the Fidesz-infatuated family doctors, although the money would have helped keep their own chronically underfinanced practices afloat.

I don’t know what these people expected from Viktor Orbán, but what they got must have been a bitter pill to swallow. The state of Hungarian healthcare is worse than ever. The old directors with few exceptions were dismissed and in their stead came doctors who in the past had expressed loyalty to Fidesz. For the most part these people are now quiet. Some of them even try to defend the current situation. At the government level, undersecretaries in charge of healthcare come and go. Gábor Zombor, the great hope, threw in the towel after a year or so, and the new one, Zoltán Ónodi-Szűcs, seems to be hiding somewhere. Meanwhile, István Éger, president of the Hungarian Medical Association, gives the occasional interview in which he complains that doctors don’t get enough money.

And what are the physicians doing? Emigrating. Between 2003 and 2011, 12% of Hungarian doctors left the country, most of them after 2010. Sixteen percent of MDs simply abandon their profession and work in the pharmaceutical industry or in fields completely unrelated to medicine. According to some calculations, if the salaries of doctors were raised by 40-50%, the outflow of Hungarian doctors could be stopped. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe this optimistic prediction when physicians in Western Europe can earn seven to ten times more than physicians in Hungary. Moreover, the problem is not only financial: there are not enough nurses, many of the buildings are in terrible shape, hospitals don’t have enough money to replace instruments critical to the work of the staff, and often the attitude of superiors toward people of a lower rank in the hierarchy is outrageous. I read about one maniac who writes weekly instructions to his staff demanding, for example, to be greeted first. If not, there is punishment.

Given the miserable working conditions, the amazing thing is that neither the doctors nor the nurses have been speaking out. Yes, Mária Sándor, the nurse in black, has been fighting for her fellow nurses ever since May, but she is unable to gather sizable crowds for her demonstrations. Since she is considered to be a troublemaker, she is unemployed at the moment. Although there is incredible shortage of nurses, she can’t get a job. The doctors don’t rally behind the nurses, who cannot live on their salaries and who often have to take second or third jobs to make ends meet. Mária Sándor asked the Hungarian public to support their cause. But although most Hungarians constantly complain about the state of Hungarian healthcare, no one paid the slightest attention to her.

In the last month or so, however, there are some signs that dissatisfaction is rising to the surface. Doctors are so fed up that they now openly talk about the deplorable situation that exists in Hungarian hospitals. First came the revolt of six anesthesiologists who gave notice to the administration of the Saint Imre Hospital in Budapest. Their complaints were manifold: shortage of nurses, low salaries, too long hours. They no longer felt that they could do a decent job under the circumstances. Sixteen doctors gave an ultimatum to Jenő Rácz, director of the Ferenc Csolnoky Hospital in Veszprém: either the woman doctor under whom they have to work goes or they will. But as Index correctly remarked, in each of these cases the directors defended the correctness of their decisions while the doctors remained quiet.

This situation is changing, it seems. Sixty-four doctors gathered and organized a Facebook group called “1,001 doctors without gratuity.” For those of you who are not familiar with “hálapénz,” perhaps I should say a few words about it. The habit of slipping a few forints into the pockets of doctors became widespread during the Rákosi regime when doctors became state employees who worked for a pittance. The Kádár regime continued underpaying physicians because the party leaders knew that the gratuity payments were amply supplementing physicians’ salaries. Or at least it was supplementing the salaries of certain doctors, like surgeons and obstetricians. And the tradition continues. The poor anesthesiologists normally receive nothing. So they have to work 300-400 hours a month to have a salary that befits their station in life.

These 64 men and women want to make gratuities illegal, arguing that maintaining the system serves only the interest of the government, which can point to these gratuities as a justification for not raising salaries. The new undersecretary, in one of the few interviews he gave, expressed his hope that with time gratuities will simply disappear from the system, no intervention necessary. Well, that’s unlikely given current salaries. Here is one example. A specialist receives an hourly net wage of 1,000 ft or €3.00.

doctors

An earlier demonstration organized by residents

The open letter they wrote to the undersecretary is an indictment of the present state of Hungarian healthcare. The Hungarian text is available online. The reaction from the ministry is not encouraging. Zoltán Balog said that “we pay as much as we can” while Bence Rétvári, the parliamentary undersecretary of the ministry, insisted that doctors make good money.

But there are other problems as well. The doctors claim that there are not enough professors in the medical schools, whose accreditation might be in jeopardy. Nurses who are being humiliated either leave the profession or the country. They talk about the falling plaster, the mildewy walls, and the inedible food in the hospitals. They bring up the inadequacy of medical care in general. For example, among cancer patients Hungary has the highest death rate in the European Union. The number of CT and MRI machines per 100,000 people is half that of Slovakia or the Czech Republic. These doctors want clear answers to their questions and demands from the ministry.

Suddenly the Hungarian Medical Association woke up from its years of slumber and is urging doctors to sign the petition. Moreover, Éger promised to stand behind the doctors’ demands.

What is the reaction in the ministry? Not very promising. The claim is that they have been regularly consulting with the profession, that the government is ready to listen to all opinions and is committed to high standards and the betterment of working conditions. The undersecretary insists that the exodus of doctors has slowed lately. The answer included references to higher wages for 43,000 nurses and 18,000 doctors in addition to extra pay for residents and specialists.

Today the government switched into high gear. MTI reported that the hospital in Siófok received 3 billion forints, the Pécs hospital 20 billion, and the Mohács hospital 1.1 billion. Yesterday Bence Rétvári called attention to the fact that in the last five years the government spent over 500 billion forints on healthcare which sounds terrific until you compare it, for example, to expenditures on sports and specifically on football.

The problems of Hungarian healthcare are so massive that I don’t expect any discernible change in the near future. The government is highly unlikely to embark, two years before the beginning of the election campaign for 2018, on any reform of the healthcare system. They’ll just let the whole thing rot for as many years as the Hungarian public allows it because, as everybody knows by now, touching healthcare can be political suicide.

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Member

“MTI reported that the hospital in Siófok received 3 billion forints, the Pécs hospital 20 billion, and the Mohács hospital 1.1 billion. ”

Pecs – mayor Fidesz, who drives a Volvo S80 T6 AWD from taxpayers money
Mohacs – mayor Fidesz who’s wife holds three municipal jobs at once
Siofok – independent mayor, with a city council of large Fidesz majority
http://nol.hu/belfold/siofok-koncfeltes-kostolgatas-vagy-csak-huzd-meg-ereszd-meg-1494029

Retrofitting, rebuilding stadiums:
MTK stadium, Budapest: 6 billion forints + , 856 visitors/game average
Stadium Debrecen: 12.5 billion forints, 3,823 visitors/game average
Stadium FTC: 14.735 billion forints, 7,625 visitors/game average
Hodmezovasarhely Lazar’s city: 1 billion forints, 156 visitors/game average

Guest
That the long arm of Fidesz is infiltrating even the medical profession and practice, is possibly the most harrowing revelation, since it is literally a life and death issue. A routine medical procedure carried out at my local surgery left me in shock. After the procedure for which I had been given a general anaesthetic, and while still knocked out, I was shaken awake and told to get dressed. Staggering over from the operating table to the recovery bed, I somehow managed to put my clothes on while the doctor looked on in what seemed to me, even in my semi-delirious state, to be impatient and highly disapproving. I was then thrown out into the waiting room, much to the horror of those who were waiting their turn, and proceeded to be sick while a kind nurse ran over to try and help. A relative helped me into a taxi, since I could hardly walk, and after about 30 hours lying down at home, I finally recovered. This is the manner in which the sick are dealt with in Hungarian medical care, under a Fidesz government. The wonderful specialists whom I have gone to in the past have all gone,… Read more »
petofi
Guest

@time4change

Sorry, it’s not only under Fidesz though Orban has instituted the notion of a class society once again–but only two classes exist: those who support Fidesz and those who don’t.

Your treatment was probably due to not placing sufficient funds beforehand in a number of medical hands–the doctor, the anesthetist, the head nurse etc. Or, the sums were found wanting.

I remember a short hospital stay some years back, when I was still relatively unknowing in the ways of Hungaricoes. On my second day, the nurse came in and put a tray with some darkish liquid, and a glass, on the bureau. She left without comment. Later, I found out that the liquid was tea (cold), and had to be drunk to stave off constipation.
But she had said nothing. Only later, I had been informed by friends that if I hadn’t tipped the nurse on arrival that’s the kind of treatment I could expect.

Hungaarian Kultur!

Hajra Magyarok!!

Member

While at home, I took advantage of the low cost dental treatments, and had my teeth checked. I did not have any problems with my teeth for decades, but I knew that some filling likely needs to be replaced. I was right, and the private dentist, did change couple of fillings. The dentist told me that she also has a practice in the UK. It was worth for her to spend one week in the UK and one week in Hungary. At any case, one of the filling did not turn out to be perfect as any time my tongue touched it, it felt “sharp”. I called the dentist, who told me to run into the government ran dental place, and they will do “grind” it down in ten seconds. She phoned ahead. So, I go in, explain what is happening, and the dentist says “You know what I tell my clients when they complain about something like this? If it bugs you so much, do not put your tongue there!” He was not joking either.

spectator
Guest

Just today a remote relative from Hungary — whom I called regarding the holidays — told me, that one not only have bring cutlery and toilet paper with her/himself, but if one want her/his blood pressure checked, better to take some batteries along too…

God in da f**king Heavens..!
Would it come to have own scalpels too, or if you will have anaesthesia while being cut open with it, you’d better take your own morphine (or any compatible opiate) with you..!

“Hungary performs better!” — just in case, you have forgotten somehow…

Guest

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Guest

Around sixty years ago there was a slogan in Germany:
Weil Du arm bist, musst Du früher sterben!
Because you’re poor, you have to die earlier …

This obviously is still the case in Hungary …

PS:
The same goes probably for all other countries, Germany and “Western Europe” generally is surely not perfect, and you probably also know about the situation in the USA but there the system is divided between private practice and social security financed.

What I found to be worst here in Hungary is that you have to know in advance, where to go before you have a problem.
Now we know which docs are good and don’t take too much money from you etc …
But for someone who just needs a doc the system is, well, a kind of lottery …

tappanch
Guest

Having observed the impotence of the European Union to uphold democracy in Hungary, Kaczynski now follows Orban’s road map to establish dictatorship in Poland.

First step: strip the power of the Constitutional Court.
Next Step: stuff the court with your own people.

http://www.warsawvoice.pl/WVpage/pages/article.php/34026/news

Guest

Poland: Another manifestation of the ‘illiberalist’ infection coursing through parts of Europe. Orban in his late night reverie must be ecstatic others are following is ‘in your face’ opposition line. More extravagance for ego. If the EU isn’t sharp on all that they’ll be putting out signs, ‘Democracy..For Sale’……and be aghast at how the ‘discount’ goes.

Member

This cartoon appeared on index.hu more than a year ago:
http://index.hu/napirajz/2014/09/24/hacsakugynem/
(A hospital doctor and another guy – as it turns out, a colleague – who is shoveling coal to the furnace.
– Hello Laci, what brings you here?
– Must switch my on-call shift on Tuesday with somebody. Could you take it?
– I’ll be on the ambulance. Why don’t you ask Gábor?
– I just talked with him. He’ll be in the canteen all day long, cooking.
– If we cook a stew on the day before, we could add water and serve it as gulyás on that day, one can do that even while being on call.
– Well, if not else… I’ll try to talk with him.
– By the way, why must you switch on-call shifts?
– Mrs Kovács needs a new operation, and it’s on that day that Anikó can do the anaesthesia – she’ll come over from Bristol for her mother’s birthday.)

ramenka
Guest

Fidesz achieved, as was its goal from the beginning, that without Fidesz no monies will be distributed by the Norwegians. If Fidesz decides something then it achieves it.

http://magyarnarancs.hu/narancsblog/a-kormany-irasba-adta-hogy-velejeig-romlott-97696

webber
Guest

Not quite.
Fidesz got a right to veto decisions. That is bad enough, but it is not the same as deciding who will get funds.
I am disappointed in the Norwegian government. It should have kept its principles.

Member
You are the reason we should switch to “only registered users can comment”. Obviously you do not bother to read the blog, as this issue was already dealt with. How many other websites you have to finish today to litter within nonsense? FIDESZ ONLY GOT THE RIGHT TO VETO WHO DISTRIBUTES THE MONEY FROM NORWAY! FIDESZ CANNOT PUT THE MONEY THROUGH THEIR NETWORK THAT WOULD POUR THE NON EY INTO THEIR PET PROJECTS! WAY TO GO NORWAY!!! Fidesz lost! This is why they asked the Norwegian s to be a secret agreement! Yes, they have veto, who will distribute…. hahahaha. Fidesz had to withdraw all of their accusations of the civil organizations, and restore their tax status! They certainly did not get their people to distribute. Fidesz lost! They wanted their buddies to distribute the money and Norway said no freaking way! LOOSER FIDESZ! “2014. augusztus 14-én a Magyar Kormány a 204/2014. (VIII. 14.) számú kormányrendeletben eleget tett a norvég fél egyik kérésének és – visszavonva korábbi egyoldalú intézkedését – a Norvég Alap általa kezelt kilenc programjának lebonyolítását visszahelyezte a Széchenyi Programiroda Nonprofit Kft.-ből az illetékes minisztériumba.A norvég nagykövet jelezte, hogy álláspontjuk változatlan és a pénzek folyósítása csak akkor indul… Read more »
ubuntu
Guest

Veto right means that without Fidesz there is no disbursement, there is nothing.

Orban can start the whole game again if he wants to. Why? Because no matter what the government “signed”, the government is the sovereign and can – among others – make a law to make that “agreement” (probably not a valid legal agreement anyway) invalid.

The veto power is a form of co-decision.

Why is this so hard to understand?

Orban achieved that from now on he has a say in how the monies will be distributed. Previously he didn’t have that right, now he has that.

How is this not an achievement?

How is this not a victory over the hapless Norwegians?

How is this not the confirmation of his belief that the Westerners always, always, always compromise, always appease, always give in (and thus must be ripped off at every turn, after all they let that happen)?

Member

Read below!

Kálmán
Guest
Let me make it clear because I think you are deluding yourselves: Fidesz will keep vetoing as long as the Norwegians find an entity full of Fidesz-loyal people. If it takes a year until the Norwegians realize how this games is played (that Orban thinks the Norwegians must anticipate his preference to avoid veto), then it will take a year. Nobody gives a shit. Do you think Fidesz will let any entity remotely independent to handle any money? Have you known Fidesz as a party which fails to do background checks? Me, I got to know Fidesz as a paranoid entity, relying on hyper loyal droids and state security types. These people the Norwegians will discover may appear first as hipsters or urban technocrats or non-Fidesznik conservatives or “moderate intellectuals” but sure as shit they will be managed from the Prime Minister’s Office. This is a game that is fundamentally treated as a national security issue (just like in Russia) by Orban and nothing will (and has) happened by accident. I’m not kidding. A veto is an extremely powerful weapon when there is no downside for exercising it (Orban is not the POTUS who’s veto can be overridden or who… Read more »
Member

Well, as it seems for the last year, you are wrong. The Norwegians dd not release a penny under the terms set by the Fidesz. Fidesz have to compromise and it will. You know why? Because they have no money left!. Yes, the EU still stuffing them, but they are running out.
Yes, maybe they will “package their veto” that they can see for the short minded Hungarians as they are the winners, but those actually who bother to follow the small prints and facts know very well that the Norwegians did not gave up anything! I do not think that for Norway is an urgency to gave their own taxpayers money to Orban, and they can hold off as long as they want. They will not sign off on Lazar’s uncle managing the distribution. The government of Norway is not the puppet government of Orban. If they wanted the Fidesz handle their money, they would just gave it to them a year ago.

Member

[moved comment below]

bimbi
Guest

This is all so sad and so very predictable.

Not so long ago we were told on this web site that:

“By January 2015 the government had spent almost 500 million euros on stadium construction.”

What, for the love of Honesty would 1/2 a billion Euros buy in terms of health care FOR THE PEOPLE?

This government, this prime minister has nothing but contempt for the Hungarian people, nothing but contempt.

Some chap called Petofi said it well (not our one!)

Talpra Magyar!

Member

MTK stadium, Budapest: 6 billion forints + , 856 visitors/game average
Stadium Debrecen: 12.5 billion forints, 3,823 visitors/game average
Stadium FTC: 14.735 billion forints, 7,625 visitors/game average
Hodmezovasarhely Lazar’s city: 1 billion forints, 156 visitors/game average

Guest

It’s sure too bad Hungary can’t get the ‘best’ in healthcare as they do er…as in say government. I understand priorities but nevertheless after a rather most eventful 1000+ years something certainly has gone askew over there when it comes to the welfare of human beings.

All in all it appears to be like a regression back to another era namely the medieval where Church and state were strongly aligned and an almighty God was the mover of all things including the state of one’s health. So if God wants you to go you go. Modern takeaway: no use now in spending forints towards ‘orvos dolog’. ‘God’s will’ sure appears to be primary in Hungary’s approach to healthcare.

Vazul3
Guest

This is sick on so many levels, really some crazy shit.

In Hungarian, excerpt from an article on/by Antal Rogan which appeared in a popular gossipy weekly.

http://munchausenparokaja.tumblr.com/post/135462878146/utilitywarrior-deadmanride

Mutaltee
Guest

Even reliable fideszniks think that Hungary’s economy is toast and lags behind its regional peers in every way.

Of course after the publication of such an assessment the central bank’s head of research was duly fired.

http://www.portfolio.hu/gazdasag/tavozik_az_mnb_kozgazdasagi_elemzesi_foosztaly_vezetoje.224574.html

Guest

Totally OT, but very interesting!
The media are not allowed (?) to report on any one’s financial wheeling and dealing with the now state owned bank MKB – especially if the person is named Andy Vajna.
They will be prosecuted!
http://www.portfolio.hu/en/equity/andy_vajna_was_the_last_straw_hungarys_mkb_bank_cracks_down_on_national_press.30669.html

spectator
Guest

They’re ‘allowed’, but then they must face prosecution.
And not only Vajna falls under their protective “umbrella” – just yesterday came the news that the son of Matolcsy just bought a furniture factory to himself with the active help of his uncle, who happens to be the top man of a state owned bank – or thereabout.
One of the sources:http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1080433-mnb-hitelbol-vett-gyarat-matolcsy-fia

Keep in mind too that quite a few of the state owned banks going to be “re-privatised” sometimes next year, so it seems like precautionary step toward keeping the public in the dark.

And as indirect censorship thereof.

Observer
Guest

Just above we see that a researcher was fired for doing an honest job, which did not fit the Fidesz lies. Here we read that the lies and swindles can not be even reported. Seems we have arrived at the
FASCISM LIGHT station.

Observer
Guest
The PHS system needs more money first of all; definitely much more money than at the time when O. was calling for the same from the opposition benches. Once in government Fidesz systematically reduced the PHS budget by hundreds of billions pushing Hungary to 30th place among the 33 OECD countries in public spending (excluding investment) as a share of GDP, OECD countries in 2013. The Public Healthcare System (PHS) reforms proposed by then health ministers Lajos Molnár and Ágnes Horváth in 2006/7 were the most comprehensive, the best researched and the most debated reform package in 20 years, dealing with the issues of co-payment (vizit díj), health personnel pay and conditions, multiple health insurance providers, hospital system restructuring, etc. Notwithstanding all this, Fidesz launched a fierce assault on the reform package (as on all other government initiatives for that matter), found politically motivated support from the conservative Constitutional Court , which bent the law and allowed Fidesz to organize a referendum on a budget issue (forbidden by law) where the public was asked the appallingly demagogic question whether they wanted to pay or not. O. celebrated the predictable result with a victorious cry “Hungary won”. In view of the… Read more »
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