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National Ambulance Day Held For The First Time As Fidesz, Jobbik Clash Over Health Care

As the first national ambulance day in Hungary was held in the Budapest City Park on Saturday with the aim of bringing the general public closer to the world of ambulance workers, ruling Fidesz party and opposition Jobbik clashed over the situation of the Hungarian health care system.

The National Ambulance Service, which saw its budget nearly doubled in the past seven years, has started “on a growth path”, the state secretary for health care said over the weekend. “This government has done a lot for the ambulance service and intends to do even more in the future”, Zoltán Ónodi-Szűcs said. The government’s most important achievements included the four-step wage hike, amounting to a 67% pay raise, Ónodi-Szűcs said.

The government has bought 500 vehicles so far and plans to buy 193 more. Thirty new ambulance stations were built and 97 renovated, he said. The 2018 budget allocates 7 billion forints more to the ambulance service than this year’s, the state secretary said, raising its total budget to 39.7 billion forints (EUR 128.3m).

Meanwhile, a lawmaker of radical nationalist Jobbik party promised that his party would set up  an independent ministry for health care and improve the wages and working conditions for health-care workers to keep them in the field if his party triumphs in next year’s general election.

Hungarian health care is in a grave situation, László György Lukács said, arguing that “[ruling] Fidesz is loath to spend money on it.” Citing a finding of the National Healthcare Services Center (AEEK), Lukács said that 1,000,000 citizens cannot reach an ambulance station within half an hour from their residence. A quarter of Hungarian families “face financial despair” in case of a larger medical bill, he said.

The greatest problem of Hungarian health care today is lack of funds, Lukács said, arguing that the government “does not want to spend on the employees’ wages and on operational costs”. The proportion of funds allocated to health care to GDP has declined between 2010 and 2015, he said.

Fidesz reacted saying that Jobbik had voted against raising the health care sector’s budget by 542 billion forints which the ruling majority voted into law earlier this year. Moreover, scandals are multiplying around Jobbik, Fidesz said in a statement, referring to former Jobbik MEP Béla Kovács, who “has been associated with multiple crimes”.

via hungarymatters.hu and MTI; photo: MTI