Physician: crisis in Latvia’s healthcare sector will become even steeper this year

Despite the fact that the declaration of the government of Latvia mentions a commitment towards healthcare, specifically that «the government is committed to ensuring a sustainable healthcare system», the reality medical institutions now face is entirely different, said the head of Jelgava Polyclinic Kintija Barloti.
She explains that among the government’s voiced goals is also the commitment «to continue increasing the public sector’s financing towards healthcare», «raising primary healthcare’s role based on patient-focused services», «promote long-term development of healthcare personnel to ensure continued provision of state-funded healthcare services». «But is is worth reminding people of the old truth – paper can withstand anything, because healthcare institutions are faced with a completely different reality. The sad realisation is that the crisis in healthcare may become only worse in 2023,» Barloti said.

She stresses that «Latvia’s healthcare sector has been starved for years» – long queues to see specialists and examinations, constant shortage of personnel, untreated illnesses, outdated medical equipment.

«The list of consequences of the chronic shortage of money go on and on. On top of that, we’ve only started recovering from a recent shock – the Covid-19 pandemic. Signals we’ve received from the government house about this year’s healthcare budget mean only one thing – healthcare will remain a neglected child,» said Barloti, adding that the suggestion from the Minister of Health to divert savings of other ministries towards the healthcare sector is a welcome suggestion.

«I believe this step would be welcome, because the systematic problems plaguing the country’s healthcare sector for years have reached a critical point.

We would like to thank Minister of Agriculture Didzis Šmits, who reminded the government of what is written in the declaration – «commitment to increase public sector’s funding of healthcare, aiming to ensure healthcare makes up at least 12% of all state budget expenditures, reducing residents’ co-fees and the financial barrier for healthcare accessibility»,» stresses Barloti.
According to her, from the rhetoric voiced in the public information space it becomes clear that «no major changes are expected for the budget».
She also explains all that’s left is to hope the government to finally come to an understanding about the needs of the healthcare sector. «At this moment people who dictate Latvia’s future, don’t want to change their beliefs, because the system cannot change itself,» says the head of Jelgava Polyclinic.
Currently the state budget for 2023 includes a total of EUR 1.6 billion reserved for healthcare. Together with funding from the European Union of EUR 166.67 million, healthcare funding for this year reaches EUR 1.8 billion.
«Already we can see that the planned budget of all healthcare institutions has been significantly reduced for the year 2023.
For example, one of the expenditure positions of Jelgava Polyclinic – visit of state-paid healthcare specialists – has gone down by EUR 97 000 when compared with 2022,» said Barloti.
She said the budget drop for large hospitals reaches EUR 15 million. «Unfortunately, this means accessibility of state-funded services will go down in 2023. We will get a society suffering from various untreated diseases,» warns the head of Jelgava Polyclinic.
Also read: Latvian Minister of Health says new budget does not meet previously outlined public health priorities