Is new era of health policy governance really beginning?

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 All Hungarians are entitled to equal access to health! In the fifth Orbán government, several ministries declaredly deal with finances, but none of them have people and human policy as a key concern – a clear indication of what Fidesz’s real priorities are.
While we, the left-wing, social democrats, put people first, the illiberal power puts money first. Despite the fact that, as a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Public Health, I myself, during the election campaign, firmly demanded that there be an independent Ministry of Health in the next cabinet, I do not think it entirely absurd that the Ministry of the Interior should now be responsible for the political management of the sector.  It is not so much the structure, but the intention, accountability and effectiveness that really matter. It is for this reason that I have today sent a long letter to Peter Takács, the new Secretary of State in the Ministry of the Interior, who is responsible for the political management of health. I indicated that, although as an opposition politician I am strongly critical of and dissatisfied with the current government’s policies, I am sufficiently and obligingly open to his appointment for the time being. Indeed, I am confident that the new Secretary of State will soon prove that he is truly committed to being a dedicated representative and leader of the health sector, which is a priority for government attention, and will move beyond the patronizing routines and shameful practices of the previous administration. Unfortunately, his predecessors have demonstrated the opposite in recent years: they have swept policy proposals of high priority for the country’s health care system off the table without meaningful dialogue or debate, illegally concealed and withheld data of public interest, deliberately misled public opinion on EU epidemic management, and knowingly or unknowingly assisted in the implementation of shady government health care procurements that clearly smell of corruption. It is in all our interests that the health sector is run effectively by its leadership that bears the interests of both the workers in the sector and people in general in mind and which can represent health effectively in government. We will soon see what Secretary of State Takács and Minister Pintér can achieve in this regard.
In my letter to the new government official in charge, I have summarized in five points the issues and questions to which the previous ministry leadership has blatantly refused to provide substantive answers or has simply illegally concealed the requested data. In my letter, I asked Secretary of State Péter Takács to provide adequate information on these pressing issues as soon as possible, in order to restore at a minimum the severely damaged credibility and integrity of the health administration. I reminded him that the government has refused on several occasions in the past to disclose strategic health programmes, such as the National Cancer Control Programme. This is a disgrace and a serious disadvantage, for example, when I am fighting for increased EU funding for Hungarian cancer targets in Brussels. But so too does the health government owe us details of the circumstances surrounding EU vaccine procurement, which are being illegally withheld; for this, even the NAIH (National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information) investigation censured the now-defunct Ministry of Human Capacities. Thirdly, I pointed out to the new Secretary of State that to date, vaccination data for covid patients are not fully public, and are routinely withheld by government institutions, despite being of considerable value to both the public and the profession. In the same letter, I asked the Secretary of State whether he agreed that the National Vaccine Factory being built would only produce Chinese and Russian vaccines for the time being, and whether he intended to make the preliminary agreements on this matter public. Finally, I drew the attention of the new government decision-maker to the fact that during the epidemic period there were numerous public procurements of equipment that raised serious allegations of corruption and which are still awaiting a substantive review. In my letter, I cited as an example the 3.1 billion forint state procurement for rapid tests, which was won by the newly founded company of a former Fidesz politician and which was sold shortly afterwards to a young man in his twenties living in a village in Borsod County. I drew the attention of Péter Takács to the fact that clarification of these matters and questions (even if they may not necessarily be his responsibility within the new government structure) is essential for decent governance. If you want to start with a clean slate, you need a clear situation. I trust that the new Secretary of State will prove that the era of deliberate obstruction of public information in the health administration is over.
After the Hungarian Prime Minister’s landmark 2014 speech in Tusványos proclaiming the illiberal state, I vowed that as an MEP I would write an open letter every week to warn the public of the crimes of the regime that has been created. I am ringing the bells of alarm for the 353rd time and will do so for as long as it seems necessary. Because we must give revival and a shared homeland a chance.

dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
29 May, 2022.