Doctors set for big wage hike in Hungary after parliament agrees to vote on healthcare bill

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After Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced on Sunday that the government has accepted the Hungarian Medical Chamber’s (MOK) proposal for an unprecedented doubling of doctors’ wages, the government on Monday submitted to Parliament the draft bill T/13174 sponsored by Minister of Human Capacities Miklós Kásler on the details of the plan.

A vote is expected on the bill today in an emergency procedure.

The bill contains the detailed roadmap of wage increases for doctors, dentists and pharmacists that will be implemented in three steps through the beginning of 2023 and tighten existing criminal legislation on both offering and accepting gratuity for medical treatments, which have been characterized as the need to offer bribes in exchange for medical service. 

In his announcement on Sunday, while admitting that his government was divided whether to decide on such a major wage increase in the middle of a crisis, Orbán said he decided this was the right moment to take this step.

“This is the moment when we need to make a breakthrough in doctors’ wages and together we can manage it again,” Orbán said. While warning that the wage increases will not be uniform across the board, he added that “one can speak of a doubling”, mentioning that, for example, resident doctors’ wages will rise to 600,000 forints (€1,672) from the current 300,000 forints.

According to the detailed final wage table to come into effect on Jan. 1, 2023 — following two other increases will be implemented in 2021 and 2022 — resident doctors with less than two years’ experience will receive a gross 687,837 forints (€1,907) per month, those at the middle of the table with 16 to 20 years of experience will receive 1,491,679 forints, while at the top, the gross wage of doctors with over 41 years of experience will be 2,380,057 forints per month (€6,601).

The bill will also make both offering and accepting gratuities punishable by up to one year in prison if no other crime is associated with the offense. 

After the bill was discussed by the judicial committee of Parliament on Monday afternoon, cabinet minister Gergely Gulyás said the committee approved the wage table in a unanimous vote, adding that those wages will be the minimum, with medical institutions allowed to modify them upwards by a maximum of 20 percent. Parliament will vote on the bill today, and if it passes, it will come into effect once published in the official bulletin.

Title image: Open heart surgery at the National Cardiology Insitute in Budapest on May 28, 2019. (Magyar Hírlap/Márton Ficsor)

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