The Slovenia Times

Token Strike Ends, Doctors Announce Severe Fight for Rights


"We are small, but powerful. We show our power every day at work, but very rarely when it comes to our rights," trade unionist Konrad Kuštrin said as he addressed the doctors on strike at UKC Ljubljana, the country's leading hospital.

Doctors want the implementation of standards they laid down in a document first drawn up in 2008 and a gradual return to a 1:3 ratio between theirs and average pay in the country. Head of the Fides trade union Kuštrin said that "doctors are an elite in their work, but not when it comes to pay".

The standards for instance envisage a reduction in the number of patients per doctor by about 30% and roughly a doubling of an average seven minutes doctors spend on a patient during the first appointment. Kuštrin stressed they should be "implemented immediately".

Arguing that the standards from their Blue Book were not "a smokescreen to raise pay", he said the government should finally start taking them seriously. "They have been making a fool of us, but they will stop."

He announced a severe fight for their rights, including a strike on 28 May, which he said would severely disrupt the healthcare system. "But the responsibility for this will have to be taken by politics."

Besides promoting the demands from the Blue Book, the doctors are also advocating health reform, which Kuštrin said was "urgently needed". "We need to change the course of the state, which we will...," Kuštrin also told the striking doctors.

Medical organisations stand firmly behind Fides and's demands; president of the Medical Chamber Andrej Možina said that by accepting the standards from the Blue Book, the Health Ministry would symbolically demonstrate its will for health reform.

Možina also said the ministry lacked the necessary authority to "successfully run the Slovenian healthcare system", the role which he said had been hijacked by the ZZZS, the manager of the health purse.

He believes PM Miro Cerar himself would have to support the reform. "Without a reform and a vision, the Slovenian healthcare system cannot stay in touch with contemporary medicine nor compete with healthcare systems in Eastern Europe."

The demanded pay increase to triple-average wage would entail a raise of around 40% as the average doctors' pay is presently 1.89-times the average wage in the country, according to Fides figures.

The union's legal representative Bojan Popovič said the sum for doctors' pay had dropped by 24% over the past few years. "An average pay of a young doctor is EUR 1,800-2,000 gross, or double the minimum wage," said Popovič, stressing that base pay should be changed first.

The strike was supported by another trade union, the Pegram association, which pointed to the need for a comprehensive approach to healthcare.

Pergam wants new standards for all professions within healthcare to be ready by the end of the year and for pay inequalities to be tackled.

If the ministry fails to take a stance on its positions by the end of the month, Pegram could consider a strike too, secretary general Jakob Počivavšek said.

The doctors went on with today's strike despite the government signalling it would take the Blue Book as a basis for defining new standards.

During the strike between 8 AM and 9:30 AM, members of Fides and the union of general practitioners attended only to emergency cases, pregnant women, the elderly and the young.

Slovenian doctors have have staged three major strikes since the country has become independent.

The biggest one, lasting three weeks, dates back to 1996 and was about higher pay, while the last serious strike was staged in 2010 when more than 3,500 doctors refused to work overtime for ten days because overtime bonuses had been cut.


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