Latvian medical workers say reform will not solve chronic funding shortage in healthcare

Latvia’s healthcare suffers from chronic shortage of funding and human resources. No reform can resolve it, said representatives of Latvian Medical Association (LĀB), Latvian Junior Doctor Association (LJĀA) and Latvian Family Physicians Association (LĢĀA) during their meeting with President Egils Levits and Minister of Health Līga Meņģelsone on Wednesday, the 1st of March.
This way medical workers opposed PM Krišjānis Kariņš, who just recently said ‘we can no longer afford pushing the monetary system without reforms’.
After listening to opinions of healthcare workers’ views on systematic problems in Latvia, considering they have reached a critical point, the president said together with additional funding, it is important to work on reforms that would enhance the medical personnel capacity and Latvian residents’ health in the long-term perspective, as reported by the State President’s press-service.

«The remuneration system in healthcare needs to be transparent, logical and fair.

The hospital network needs to be modern and optimised. We have reforms the need for which is affirmed by everyone, healthcare workers included. Additionally, we have to increase funding for the healthcare sector in a gradual and responsible way, because every individual and society in general, understand that health is an important priority,» stressed Levits.
The president of LĀB Ilze Aizsilniece mentioned during the discussion that Latvia’s healthcare may have experienced more reforms than any other sector in recent years. Education is one sector that remains in the lead in this regard. Additionally, all this was done without allocation of additional funding and without any tangible result.

Currently accessibility of healthcare continues going down, says Aizsilniece, who is confident that «Latvia is rapidly moving towards paid healthcare».

According to her, more than 211 000 people in Latvia receive disability benefits. The reason for this is the unavailability of timely and modern healthcare.
«The number of healthy years residents in Latvia live and the average length of life are some of the lowest in Europe, whereas the number of people suffering from chronic illnesses and premature deaths is one of the highest.

Birth rates are dramatically low. Our nation is ageing and dying out rapidly, losing our economic competitiveness and defensive capabilities,» said Aizsilniece.

According to medical associations, Latvia’s healthcare funding volume is the lowest in the European Union. In 2023 and coming years it is likely to drop below 4% of GDP. Estonia, for example, diverts 6.7% of GDP towards healthcare. Lithuania diverts 5.9%.
Legislators say that a significant amount of funding was pulled from healthcare because of the end of Covid-19 pandemic – the infection is no longer as dangerous as it was in the beginning.
According to medical associations, the latest data from OECD indicates Latvia spends slightly more than EUR 1 500 on medical treatment of a single resident, which is the fourth lowest index among EU member states and three times below the average in the EU. In Estonia it is approximately EUR 2 000 and in Lithuania it is approximately EUR 2 200.
For Latvia to catch up to its neighbouring countries and reach Europe’s average, the government reports that, in accordance with Public Health guidelines for 2021-2027, it will be necessary to divert 6.5% of GDP towards healthcare and Latvian government’s expenditures towards this sector will need to reach 15%.
LĀB criticises the fact that a medical specialist’s monthly wage rate in Latvia is EUR 1 555 and that of a senior resident is EUR 1 506, whereas in Estonia the minimal wage of a doctor is EUR 2 721 and that of a senior resident is EUR 2 521. Organisations also compare Latvia with more economically developed countries, where wages are generally higher. In Britain, for example, junior doctors are paid between EUR 7 000 to EUR 10 000 a month. In Germany they are paid between EUR 7 000 and EUR 8 500.
LJĀA board chairman believes low funding of the healthcare sector has resulted in a chronic shortage of human resources. Currently there is a shortage of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel. According to results of a recently performed survey, 25% of junior specialists already consider leaving to work abroad. 12% have already decided to build up their career elsewhere.
According to representatives of medical associations, the proportion of junior doctors in Latvia is very low. 50% of all doctors are at least 50 years old. Two-thirds of family physicians are of pre-retirement age.
Also read: Latvian government mulls over finances