NIJZ head’s powers curtailed under government decision

Ljubljana, Cankarjev dom. Izjava za medije o aktualnem dogajanju v zvezi z novim koronavirusom. Predstojnik obmocne enote NIJZ v Kopru Milan Krek.

Ljubljana – Against the backdrop of speculations that the head of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), Milan Krek, will soon be dismissed or will step down, the government changed the rules governing the institution so that Krek will no longer perform the duties of NIJZ medical director.

Under the decision, adopted at Tuesday’s correspondence session, the duties of the medical director will be performed by the acting medical director until the appointment of the full-fledged medical director, and no longer by the director general, who is currently Krek.

In May 2021, the previous government paved the way for introducing the position of medical director at the public health authority, and changed the top post from director to director general.

Under the Janez Janša government’s decision at the time, the medical director would be appointed by the director general.

In recent days, Krek has been reiterating that he will not resign despite what he sees as political pressure to do so. Initially, reports surfaced that he intended to do so after discussing the NIJZ future with new Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan, but he refuted that, saying that the minister was indeed putting pressure on him to step down on behalf of new Prime Minister Robert Golob.

In today’s press statement, Bešič Loredan said that he had spoken to Krek on several occasions and that the NIJZ head did not enjoy his trust because of some of his decisions during the epidemic.

Bešič Loredan also noted that the government had appointed new government representatives on the NIJZ council at its first session after taking office last week. In a piece Krek recently wrote for Portal Plus, he says that they are members of the SocDems health council.

Krek, who is not an epidemiologist or an infectious disease specialist, has been often criticised for lacking the competence to head the country’s public health response to the epidemic. He took over as the NIJZ head in April 2020 soon after the Janez Janša government replaced the members of the NIJZ council.