It is not enough to talk about problems and fire off promises; concrete steps and commitments must be taken to improve the quality of healthcare, said Member of the European Parliament’s Public Health Committee, MEP István Ujhelyi, in his open letter.
In line with this, the Social Democrat politician announced that he had joined the Independent Health Trade Union as a member: as he wrote, he wants to support not only the representation of the interests and working conditions of health sector workers but also the safety of patients in Hungary, not just by making a financial commitment but also by taking a symbolic step. Ujhelyi added that a recruitment drive would also be launched among the followers and supporters of the Community of Chance, which he founded, to encourage more members to join the healthcare lobby, thus strengthening its effective functioning.
In his open letter, the MEP pointed out that the operation of healthcare in the EU is currently an exclusive national competence, meaning that everything that happens in the Hungarian healthcare system, from financing to the organisation of the quality of care, is the sole responsibility of the current Hungarian government. Ujhelyi added that he, on the other hand, was working towards a European quality requirement system for public healthcare, which all Member States have a duty to ensure for their citizens. He said that the situation and quality of care had unfortunately only worsened under the two-thirds Fidesz government, with its unlimited power, and that the number of public resources, i.e. funding spent on healthcare was well below the EU average, and that Hungary was among the last EU Member States in this comparison.
Ujhelyi also posted an online conversation with Adrianna Soós, president of the Independent Healthcare Trade Union, on his social media page, who said, among other things, that there are currently about 130,000 healthcare professionals in Hungary, of whom about 88,000 are in publicly funded care. This is at least 25 per cent less than the European average, which is not surprising given that the financial appreciation of health workers is critically low in Hungary.
Adrianna Soós stressed that the health sector is the only sector in Hungary where it is legal to do „voluntary forced labour” to make a living, so it is not uncommon for some health workers to work up to 260-280 hours a month with overtime beyond the legally defined working hours. This is more than unsustainable and clearly compromises patient safety.
In his open letter on Sunday, MEP István Ujhelyi added that he has no medical education, but his parents were doctors, so he grew up seeing and learning about the problems of healthcare from close up. „I am proud to be part of the wider implementation of the European Health Union. I still have a lot to do: in the coming years, I want to bring the proposal for a set of quality criteria for European healthcare to concrete implementation; the initial steps have been taken in recent years, but the arm wrestling with the quarrelsome Member States is only just beginning, in the interests of European citizens, including Hungarians,” the Social Democrat politician wrote in his letter.
The online discussion (in Hungarian) with Adrianna Soós, leader of the Independent Health Trade Union (FESZ), is available at: https://bit.ly/3LxDpco
And the supporting membership application form (in Hungarian) published on the Community of Chance (Esély Közösség) website can be downloaded from: https://bit.ly/40ffX8a
Budapest/Brussels – 19/03/2023