Health Minister Dario Nakic said on Tuesday that he did not expect any cutbacks in the health system but that unnecessary spending should be stopped and money directed to improving the quality of treatment and upgrading outdated equipment.

"Until now there has been an impression that the situation in the health system is wonderful and that the system was blooming. Let's stop talking about 'Potyomkin villages'," Nakic said in an interview with Croatian Radio.

He promised that patients' rights would not be restricted and that citizens need not fear the privatisation of the health system. We all contribute to the health system from our wages and it is a great value of our society, however, it's not free, Nakic said.

Nakic does not support the idea of basic health insurance being a part of private insurance companies but he does believe that it is necessary to define a basic package of services to be covered by the Croatian Health Insurance Institute (HZZO), as well as non-standard services that patients would pay for themselves or through private insurance companies.

Nakic announced the reorganisation of work, particularly in the system of integrated emergency services where a large number of non-emergency patients come, causing other patients to wait up to 8 hours to be treated. He considers that it is unacceptable that young, inexperienced doctors work in emergency services.

The new minister believes that counties should be in charge of the financial rehabilitation of hospitals and is surprised that the law on hospital rehabilitation did not spark more criticism because hospital directors were appointed on political grounds without any selection process.

"We won't do it that way. We won't appoint directors... they should be elected by the hospitals' management boards that are appointed by local government units," Nakic said.

He added that it was necessary to reorganise the hospital system and that the country needed one hospital at the national level (KBC Zagreb) whose director would be appointed by the government.

Commenting on the number of medics emigrating, Nakic said that they were leaving not just because of low salaries and benefits but also because they could not develop professionally, which needed to change.

He reiterated that he intended to conclude a collective agreement with the doctors' union. "A large number of doctors are emigrating from Croatia. Pursuant to the collective agreement, if Croatia achieves growth, and it is likely to happen, we will have to raise wages by 6%, yet there is no money for that in the budget. I will have to ask doctors to show some understanding and I don't see why that should be a problem," said the minister.

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