Parliament approves EUR 2bn in healthcare investment by 2031

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Ljubljana – The National Assembly has endorsed by 68 votes in favour and two against a government-sponsored bill that will secure about EUR 2 billion in investment in Slovenia’s health system over the next ten years.

“This is an exceptionally important healthcare act that will help us plan the necessary capacities, infrastructure, equipment, IT and properly qualified staff in sufficient numbers,” Health Minister Janez Poklukar told MPs.

“It’s the first piece in the healthcare puzzle from 2021 to 2031, providing us with a guarantee that our healthcare will continue to be public, universal and accessible in 2031,” he said before the law passed the final reading on Wednesday.

Investment is planned at all three levels of healthcare; a total of EUR 763 million is earmarked for the country’s two medical centres, EUR 557 million for development and modernisation of general hospitals, nursing hospitals and community health centres across the country.

“We are allocating 250 million for education, improvement and expansion of capacities of colleges, and as much as 200 million is earmarked to subsidise improvement of infrastructure at the primary level. This means three million on average per community health centre in Slovenia,” Poklukar said.

Funds for primary care have been increased through amendments in the legislative process from EUR 50 million to 200 million.

The funds are to be secured in regular annual budgets from 2021 to 2031.

Concrete projects include the construction of a new gastroenterological department at UKC Ljubljana, a new building for the Clinical Institute of Medical Genetics, and new annexes to the maternity ward and orthopaedic department.

A regional hospital in Gorenjska and new nursing hospital and nursing home capacities are planned as well.

Coalition deputy factions noted years of underinvestment that they said led to a development lag and the equipment being worn out.

Apart from the coalition, the bill was also backed by the opposition Left, National Party (SNS) and non-affiliated MPs and the majority of the deputies of the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Social Democrats (SD) and Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS), while the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) abstained.

The only MPs who voted against were Robert Polnar of DeSUS and Franc Trček of the SD.

While the party was happy about the increase in funding of primary care, Trček said the bill did not guarantee the state of the health system would drastically improve in the short- or long-term.

Even as they supported investment in healthcare, the LMŠ, Left and the SAB argued the law was part of the government’s election campaign.

Several deputy factions also noted staff shortages, calling for better pay to motivate and attract staff.