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Photograph: Freeimages.com/zarko kecman

The three leading political camps on Monday,  ahead of the September 11 early parliamentary vote, promised citizens universally available and solidarity-based health services as well as the provision of private health services in cases where the public health system's capacity is limited.

Separation of the private and public health systems as well as their cooperation, on the condition private doctors agree to prices of medical services paid by the Health Insurance Institute (HZZO) to the public health sector, is something all three potential health ministers, Sinisa Varga of the People's Coalition, Drago Prgomet of the HDZ party and Ivan Bekavac of the Bridge party, were agreed on.

The three politicians were attending a round table debate organised by the Croatian Employers' Association and the Hanza Media publishing company.

To shorten waiting lists for specialist examinations, one should ensure timely and quality health services, and private doctors should be hired in cases where the public health sector's capacity is insufficient, said representatives of the three political camps which according to polls are likely to win the most votes in the early parliamentary election next Sunday.

Zoran Knezevic, a representative of employers in the health sector, criticised outgoing Health Minister Dario Nakic of not having had the time in the eight months of his term to meet with employers' representatives.

He underlined that the HZZO's price list for diagnostic procedures and treatment was unrealistic, citing as an example the fact that the HZZO paid HRK 50 for a cardiological examination, which he said lasted 8 minutes in a public hospital. One the other hand, a private cardiologist charges HRK 250 for such an examination, but dedicates half an hour to the patient, said Knezevic.

Marina Pulisic of the JGL pharmaceutical company warned about what she described as a too slow and uncompetitive health administration, slow adoption of regulations and lack of transparency in their enforcement.

She also warned about the unfair treatment of the domestic pharmaceutical industry and called for reducing the current, 25% VAT rate on non-prescription drugs.

Representatives of the three political camps, however, did not agree on the issue of supplementary doctors' work in the private sector.

Prgomet said that he was strongly against doctors employed in the public health sector also having private practices, while Bekavac said that that was European practice and that if not allowed to work privately on the side, doctors would continue leaving the country.

Knezevic warned about the problem of undeclared doctors' work and the fact that doctors working in the public sector continued to refer patients to their private practices. When doing so, they neither issue bills for their services nor pay taxes, he said, to which Bekavac, currently serving as the Deputy Health Minister, said that all such cases should be reported to the ministry.

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