Doctors suspend strike for two months
The decision was taken by the FIDES trade union's strike committee this morning as they empowered their boss Konrad Kuštrin to sign a strike deal reached with the government last night.
The agreement involves the implementation of workload standards and norms, set out by doctors in the 2008 Blue Book, which among other things would give them more time to treat each patient.
Speaking to reporters last night, Kuštrin said that agreement had also been reached to reward doctors exceeding the standards.
The government also committed to submit to parliament by 1 December amendments to the public sector pay system that would enable doctors to progress higher on the pay scale than they currently can.
Kuštrin said the key aspect of the agreement was immediate resumption of talks to amend the collective bargaining agreement in order to improve the status of junior and speciality training doctors and specialists, whose salaries now Kuštrin described as disgraceful.
Health Minister Milojka Kolar Celarc valued the deal at some 40 million euros a year, saying that she had been in talks with the finance minister to secure the extra funding next year.
Kolar Celarc commented that the agreement would also contribute to reducing waiting times and ensure better quality of care, while doctors would get performance bonus for the extra work hours put in.
General practitioners would get 10% more if they perform certain procedures of certain quality and if they consult doctors at the secondary level of healthcare.
Extra money would also be available for speciality doctors if they reduce wait times. "This will benefit patients because doctors will have more time for them and they will also get treatment sooner."
The minister added that not all the criteria and norms had been determined yet, so taskforces would be appointed to set out the details.
The strike committee welcomed the agreement, including the adoption of new workload standards, which it said would go toward achieving the EU average of doctors per patient.
The agreement has already met with negative reactions and a prominent coalition MP has signalled that the minister might have overstepped her mandate and that the deal had not been agreed with the coalition.
Matjaž Han, the head of the deputy faction of Social Democrats (SD), pointed to potential detrimental consequences the deal was expected to have for the ongoing talks with the rest of the public sector.
He said the SocDems would never have consented to such an agreement and that PM Miro Cerar should take action if Kolar Celarc had overstepped her powers and jeopardised agreement with the public sector.
Doctors went on strike on 8 November by refusing to work overtime and sticking to the 40-hour work week. Data is not in yet how many surgeries or appointments had to be cancelled as a result.
Had they not struck a deal with the government yesterday, doctors were prepared to step up their strike today by sticking to the minimum duty of care prescribed by law in the event of a strike.