Doctors warn about retirement provision in latest package

Medical office - middle-aged male doctor greeting patient, shaking hands.

Ljubljana – The Medical Chamber has warned about ramifications of the provision in the seventh stimulus bill that allows retirement of workers without a justified reason immediately after they meet the conditions for old-age pension. The chamber says that any such outflow of doctors and dentists would further jeopardise access to healthcare.

The chamber noted that until the end of 2022, a total of 951 doctors and dentists will meet the retirement conditions under the provision, including 614 by the end of this year.

The first figure accounts for 10.5% of all currently active doctors and dentists. “Any forced retirement would further put at risk healthcare access,” the chamber wrote in a press release issued on Monday.

Slovenia trails behind other EU countries when it comes to the number of doctors per capita and the measure would only aggravate the situation; for example, until the end of 2022 there would be an additional 185 retirements of family practitioners or 13% of them.

The forced retirement provision would also exacerbate the dental care situation, already marked by increasingly longer waiting lines. Until the end of 2022, 164 dentists would meet the conditions under the provision or almost 12%.

The chamber sees the proposal as highly inappropriate during the coronavirus crisis and warns that employers’ decision on which employees to retain and which to push into retirement could be arbitrary, not only in healthcare but also in business and public administration.

The FIDES trade union agrees with the chamber, labelling the proposal as inappropriate and detrimental. Every doctor or dentist counts now and will count in the aftermath of the crisis, it said.

FIDES head Konrad Kuštrin said it was illogical and counter-productive to propose a measure that would reduce the number of doctors in the public healthcare system, noting that the shortage of staff was an even bigger problem than an insufficient amount of hospital beds.

The Labour Ministry responded to the appeal by saying the measure would not trigger forced retirements since indispensable workers will be able to continue working in agreement with the employer.

The opposition Social Democrats (SD), Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), Marjan Šarec Party (LMŠ) and Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) have proposed an amendment to the stimulus bill that would scrap the provision in question. The bill is currently debated by the parliamentary Finance Committee before it goes to a plenary tomorrow.

Other trade unions have also protested against the provision, saying it reduces the rights and discriminates against older workers. Moreover, the proposal would put a significant and permanent burden on the public pension fund.

On the other hand, employer representatives have welcomed it. The Chamber of Craft and Small Business (OZS) noted that young people were not able to get a job because some older workers stayed in an employment relationship long after meeting the retirement conditions.

This was also an argument Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj gave in support of the provision as he presented the bill to the committee earlier in the day.

The Labour Ministry said the measure was meant to encourage the employment of the youth after unemployment surged, especially among the young, due to the epidemic.