Hungarian healthcare is the last vestige of Socialism

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Zoltán Ónodi-Szűcs, who served as the previous State Minister for Health at the Ministry of Human Capacities (EMMI) once summarily characterized healthcare as “the last vestige of Socialism”, writes Éva Haiman, columnist for Magyar Idők.

In a recent report, the State Audit Office concluded that hospitals and medical offices squander money and the overall financial structure of the healthcare system is wasteful. The report also questioned the transparency and degree of legal compliance of healthcare institutions.

Enter Miklós Kásler, who replaced Calvinist pastor Zoltán Balog at the helm of EMMI after the April elections and is thus ultimately responsible for healthcare. A professor of medicine and former head of the National Institute of Oncology, he is quite well-placed to tackle the problem, which he intends to do. So far, he acknowledged the need for a healthcare reform and his ministry is working full-steam to find solutions. Kásler said the fact that the systemic problems could not be solved in the last almost three decades shows the complexity of the issue.

Ónodi-Szűcs was of the opinion that the rivalry among the heads of various medical institutions and their strong informal ties with various politicians was the root of the problem and he attempted to tackle it by putting in place a centralized administrative and financial system, but despite assurances to the contrary, he could not see his plans through for lack of political support.

The State Minister for Health before him, Gábor Zombor’s opinion was the polar opposite: he said healthcare has for decades been hostage to politics. He also failed to make substantial changes. So, while the lines of action may not yet be clear, the task is there. Maybe a good starting point would be the recent report of the National Bank of Hungary, “180 steps for the sustainable improvement of Hungary’s competitiveness”. 22 of the report’s 180 points pertain to healthcare.

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