There is no guarantee of safe patient care in Hungary. This is a serious statement made directly by the President of the Hungarian Medical Chamber.
Due to the emigration of doctors and the policy of the Hungarian government treating health as a tertiary area, the situation of healthcare has become untenable in Hungary. In fact, let’s just say that today it represents an actual risk to national security. A few days ago, I addressed a written question to the European Commissioner responsible for the area, drawing attention to the serious situation of Hungarian healthcare and strongly advocated the introduction of a European minimum health service guaranteeing patient safety and the support of the introduction of a minimum wage, also part of our European program.
The answer of the EU Commissioner for Health, Vytenis Andriukaitis, is clear and unambiguous. The member of the European Commission declared that “the right to quality, timely and affordable healthcare is a fundamental principle of the European pillar of social rights.” He added that the latest EC report on Hungary clearly indicates that Hungary’s “healthcare ratings are worse than in most other EU Member States, reflecting partly unhealthy lifestyles and partly the limited efficiency of healthcare.” He also noted that there are significant socio-economic disparities in access to quality care, which is due to the system that healthcare costs are largely borne by users. Andriukaitis pointed out that the Hungarian government had received a number of proposals recommending support of preventive health measures and the strengthening of primary care.
In response to my question, the EU Commissioner also pointed out that the future President of the EC, Ursula von der Leyen, supported the principle of a national minimum wage and “fully acknowledged” that setting a minimum wage, including for healthcare professionals, “is the responsibility of Member States and social partners.” In other words, the introduction of the minimum health wage in Hungary depends primarily on the decision and common sense of the Orbán-government. The latter is particularly important because in the tourism sector the Hungarian government is ready to introduce a “guaranteed sector wage minimum”, precisely because of the “permanently critical labour force situation.” It is, of course, up for debate that in a market sector such as tourism, to what degree a fixed state minimum wage would stifle small businesses and thereby serve the interests of oligarchic investor circles, or why it would be more appropriate to reduce the burden of labour taxes in the sector, but undoubtedly something has and had to be done about that the problem of severe labour shortages.
However, while the fate of the tourism sector is so important for the head of government and his relatives, it would be appropriate for the health situation, which also suffers from a shortage of professionals, to be equally important to them. The introduction of the minimum wage in the health sector proposed in our European program – which would guarantee a minimum wage of HUF 1.5 million for doctors, and 750,000 a month for trainee medical staff and nurses – would ensure that the current life-threatening healthcare conditions would improve in the short term.
I therefore call on the Minister for Human Resources Miklós Kásler and the head of the finance ministry Mihály Varga to propose a minimum wage in the health sector, similar to the sectoral minimum wage to be introduced in tourism! They keep saying that Hungary comes first to them. It’s time to prove it.
dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
18 August, 2019