By: Andrej Žitnik / Nova24TV
The Janša government started tackling corruption in healthcare at its source – the problem of negotiated prices between providers and public procurers, where there are countless bypasses happening and financial black holes being created, to which the taxpayers’ money flows unchecked. To this end, the previous government had set up a special Office of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for the Central Register of Prices of Medical Devices and Equipment. But now, the Golob government tis abolishing the office, as the central register of prices is apparently bothering some of the dedicated private companies that have been making lucrative deals with the state for decades now. Slovenian Democratic Party MP Jelka Godec and the party’s President Janez Janša also reacted to the announcement of abolition on Twitter.
At the initiative of the previous government of Janez Janša, the National Assembly adopted an amendment to the Public Procurement Act in January, which, among other things, provides for the establishment of reference prices for medical devices and equipment on the basis of comparable prices in other EU countries. It was established that a new government office will be responsible for establishing reference prices, which will be the basis for setting the prices of public procurement contracts. Based on this law, in March this year, the government issued a decree on the establishment of the Office of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for the Central Register of Prices of Medical Devices and Equipment.
This was done to fulfil the commitment to curb corruption in healthcare by introducing a system of comparable European prices for public procurement. However, this clearly went down very badly with the medical godfathers, who are one of the co-founders of the latest “new” left-liberal party – the Freedom Movement (Gibanje svoboda). That is why the government is now planning to abolish the office by means of an intervention law. At the same time, “Šabeder’s” Office for Supervision, Quality and Investments in Healthcare has been given the task of supervising the members of the councils of healthcare institutions.
Namely, at a recent correspondence session, the government, at the proposal of the Ministry of Health, which is headed by Danijel Bešič Loredan, gave its consent to the act on internal organisation and systematisation of posts at the Office for Supervision, Quality and Investments in Healthcare, which will give the office new competencies, for example, strategic planning, monitoring and supervision of procurement procedures in public healthcare institutions, and conducting audits of public procurement and public tenders.
It is important to note that Aleš Šabeder is a member of the boards of the Oncology Institute Ljubljana and the University Medical Centre Maribor, and now he is also the new head of the Office for Supervision, Quality and Investments in Healthcare. This means that Šabeder will de facto control himself and, through the office, will be able to say which prices of medical devices are appropriate and which are not. This is a textbook example of a conflict of interests and shows how quick the current government is in its efforts to win back as many public institutions as possible, which they lost in the previous government’s fight against corruption.
Slovenian Democratic Party MP Jelka Godec responded to the news on Twitter by writing the following: “Let the looting begin. With the new intervention law, the Ministry of Health is abolishing the special Office of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for the Central Register of Prices of Medical Devices and Equipment. At the same time, Šabeder’s Office for Supervision, Quality and Investments in Healthcare will get the task of supervision of the members of the councils of institutions, and Šabeder is also being appointed as the chairman of the council of the University Medical Centre Maribor.” She also added the hashtag “gross.”
Janez Janša, the President of the Slovenian Democratic Party and former Prime Minister whose government established the office that is now being abolished, wrote the following in response to the intervention law: “The healthcare supply mafia is coming back in full swing. Abolishing the comparative pricing system is just one of the main aims of their lobbyists in the Freedom Movement party, the Social Democrats and the Left party. Now, the vascular stents could once again be four times as high in Slovenia as they are in Austria – and the difference will once again go to the Mlagina magazine and the likes.”