UKC Ljubljana director Poklukar nominated for health minister

Ljubljana – Janez Poklukar, the director of Slovenia’s largest hospital UKC Ljubljana, has been nominated for health minister nearly two months after the resignation of Tomaž Gantar.

“Poklukar will be the new health minister,” Prime Minister Janez Janša announced on Twitter on Friday after formally submitting the nomination to the National Assembly.

He described Poklukar as a good candidate with a “guaranteed comfortable majority to be elected. We are looking forward to the fresh strength on the team.”

Poklukar said on Twitter the decision was not simple but he accepted Janša’s invitation “due to all the opportunities for the Slovenian health system and UKC Ljubljana that I see in the future”.

The pick has been unanimously endorsed by the coalition partners as well as the opposition National Party (SNS), which has signed a cooperation agreement with the coalition.

New Slovenia (NSi) president Matej Tonin praised Poklukar as a professional and a tried-and-tested crisis manager. “He was one of the candidates that [NSi] put forward to the prime minister,” he tweeted.

Modern Centre Party (SMC) president Zdravko Počivalšek said Poklukar was “an excellent choice and enjoys my full support”, adding that as an experienced operative Poklukar would be able to “take charge quickly and sort out the health system.”

Poklukar has headed UKC Ljubljana since August 2019, when he was appointed for a four-year term after a five-year stint leading the Jesenice hospital.

Poklukar, who just turned 42, is a medical doctor who won praise for financially restructuring the hospital in Jesenice.

During his stint at UKC Ljubljana, he has been credited with rapidly expanding capacity for Covid-19 patients.

If elected in parliament, he will succeed Gantar, who stepped down in December, when his Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) left the coalition. In the interim the ministry was headed by Janša personally.