The debt of hospitals is increasing by more than 100 million forints every day, and this debt will only continue to increase this year, said Secretary General of the Medical Technology Association László Rásky in an online conversation with MEP István Ujhelyi.
In this week’s episode of the interview series „Weekly Duo with Ujhelyi”, the Hungarian member of the European Parliament’s Public Health Committee asked the expert about the situation and opportunities of healthcare security in Hungary. During the interview, László Rásky said, among other things, that hospitals’ debts are expected to grow further and more rapidly than in the past because some of the institutions are only now beginning to feel the effects of the rise in energy prices, as many of them have just reached the end of their one-year energy contracts.
The Secretary General also pointed out that a significant part of the recurring debt of hospitals is owed precisely to those companies that manufacture medical equipment, as they are usually at the „back of the queue”. In the online discussion, László Rásky also pointed out that 10 years ago, salaries accounted for barely 60-70% of the budget of healthcare institutions, but now it is over 80%, and there are hospitals that cannot even cover their salaries with the state subsidies they receive.
In this context, MEP István Ujhelyi noted that even in the light of the new budget, it can be said that the fair operation of public healthcare is impossible to finance, as the health budget line will increase by only 9% in 2023, while inflation is at least 15%. „The Hungarian health system simply cannot be expected to provide a better quality of service, while we are lagging behind the EU Member States in terms of Community spending,” Ujhelyi added.
In the online discussion, the Secretary General of the Medical Technology Association also pointed out that under the current public procurement rules it is possible to tender for equipment in the healthcare sector with the most important evaluation criterion being low price. This, he pointed out, has a significant impact on quality, and the use of lower quality equipment clearly compromises patient care.
László Rásky said that they had long been calling for the establishment of a professional chamber or a system to guarantee compliance with quality assurance criteria for companies manufacturing and importing/distributing medical devices, but had not yet achieved any significant results. This would, according to the Secretary General, filter out the „scoundrels” who import or distribute poor quality products without a transparent and real professional background, causing significant harm not only to patients but to the profession as a whole. In this context, Ujhelyi recalled that during the covid epidemic, the government spent billions of forints of public money on obscure equipment purchases, involving rapidly formed companies with a suspicious political background.
During the discussion, it was also mentioned that more and more medical devices have become a scarce commodity on the market. In this context, László Rásky said that one of the biggest problems in the sector is that a price cap of almost 20 years has meant that some products are simply no longer worth distributing in Hungary. „If someone wants to buy adult diapers, for example, they will find that there are none. And it’s not because it’s not available on the market, but because shopkeepers can only buy it for more than they can sell it for. Last year, we drew the government’s attention to the fact that a number of devices are no longer available on the international market at the official Hungarian price. There has been some correction, but according to monitoring by our partner distributors’ association, 900 of the 3,400 products on the subsidy list for assistive devices can still be sold at a loss. We have a big problem ahead of us, or rather we are already in it,” said László Rásky, adding that the Hungarian state is clearly not spending enough money and is not paying enough attention to the most deprived sections of society. The Secretary General stressed that the Hungarian state’s duty is to ensure a decent life for its citizens, but this right is clearly being violated in the health sector.
In the course of the discussion, István Ujhelyi reiterated that the broader implementation of the European Health Union, which he had partly initiated, would bring about an improvement in Hungarian public health care as soon as possible. As he said, there is a need for a single set of quality standards in public health at EU level, which would set minimum standards of care and which all Member States would be obliged to meet, both in terms of quality of care and patient safety.
The full discussion can be accessed at the following link (in Hungarian language): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAMh4wPnEDc
Budapest/Brussels – 28/01/2023