By: Nina Žoher
“Currently, a tender for TAVI heart valves is being held at the University Medical Center Ljubljana. Mafiosos tried to get through the same valves as in Germany – 5 thousand euros more expensive per valve (270 valves per year). Mafiosos could thus share about 1.35 million of your euros a year. For the time being, the theft has been stopped,” wrote on Twitter a renowned cardiologist dr. Blaž Mrevlje. Considering that the memory of the coronary stent affair is still fresh, which revealed the huge appetites of the healthcare-supply mafia for the money of Slovenian taxpayers, we were interested in what the whole thing was about, so we called Mrevlje, who explained that the said tender has not been annulled but has not been completed.
According to dr. Blaž Mrevlje it is supposed to come to a new tender, but it has not yet taken place, and the old one has not yet been cancelled. “I checked with colleagues in Germany, in short it’s about four valves. Two are those that have been established in the world for ten years and also have all the studies behind them, and two are new. As with coronary stent, the tender conditions in this notice have been made so precise by individual categories that only one supplier can apply for each category.”
“According to German prices, in both categories of these main established valves, on average, valves are 5,000 euros more expensive (including VAT) than in Germany,” Mrevlje explained, and summarized in laymen terms: The Edwards valve in Germany costs 15,000 euros with VAT, here they offered a price of just over 20 thousand in the tender. The Medtronic valve is 13 thousand with VAT in Germany, here they offered 18 thousand with VAT. “In short, for both main valves, which are established in the world, they offered a price of five thousand euros more in the tender than in Germany. With 270 valves for UKC Ljubljana, this means an overpayment in the amount of 1.35 million euros,” he was clear.
A month ago, Finance calculated that the Ljubljana University Medical Center would pay around two million euros less if it bought the tendered quantities of valves based on the prices bought by hospitals in Germany and Scandinavia. This specifically means that around four million would have to be paid instead of six million. In addition to all this, it is necessary to take into account that UKC is operating at a loss throughout and any money is more than needed for investments and implementation of the programme.
These are the same suppliers as in the case of the vascular splint affair
According to Mrevlje, this tender involves well-known suppliers. Company Bormia is selling valves from Edvards Lifesciences, known from the coronary stent affair and featured in a report around vascular splint corruption. The Medtronic valve is offered by Medtronic’s Slovenian subsidiary Medtronic, ltd. “The same people from the same companies as we know them from the story of the coronary stent work. They are doing the same corruption in the same center – UKC Ljubljana, only the operator has changed.” Mrevlje emphasized that he hoped that the University Medical Center in Ljubljana had learned something from the story of coronary stents. So that cooperation with such suppliers is not appropriate, as this causes economic damage. Purchasing from German suppliers or directly from manufacturers is much more suitable and, of course, cheap.
We asked Mrevlje how much budget money has already run out recently at the expense of the health-supply mafia. He told us that based on the story from the coronary stents, they calculated that only the University Medical Center Ljubljana overpaid 2.5 million a year, which was confirmed even by the then director of the University Medical Center Ljubljana, Simon Vrhunec. “If we look at the fact that coronary stents are only one of the 20,000 materials purchased at the University Medical Center Ljubljana, we can imagine that there is a huge overpayment. I estimate that in the UKC Ljubljana alone, 50 million materials and services (including construction, computer, etc.) are overpaid every year. I estimate that there are at least 400 million a year in healthcare. In my estimation, the health supplier mafia has stolen at least $ 12 billion in 30 years.”
10 years ago, according to Mrevlje, the budget in health care was 1 billion less than it is today, but in ten years nothing has changed in health care. No hospitals were built, no hospitals renovated, no prices lowered. “Why are we paying one billion more a year for 10 years than we were paying ten years ago per year if nothing has changed? This money, of course, does not go into thin air, but into sailboats, etc.” According to Mrevelje, it is difficult to estimate the length of queues because they have been objectively extended due to covid, but queues are always an excuse to throw money at health care, because until we reduce prices, these queues cannot be shortened. “Queues are just a mechanism to force people to go private and pay extra there. That is, you pay for your whole life when you are old and sick, you come to the queue, you wait in it for too long and then you go private with the savings.”
State Secretary for Health Jelka Godec, who in the past headed the investigation commission for coronary stents, emphasized for Finance that the investigation commission, which she headed at the time when she was a member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, dealt with the supply medical devices, primarily in the case of coronary stents identified a series of irregularities and overpayment of medical supplies. “It also turned out that changes in the system of ordering medical materials would be needed, which is why framework solutions in this area are being prepared.” According to Godec, it is too early to say what the final solutions and details of the changes in the legislation will be, adding that talks and coordination with the relevant ministries are already underway.