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“We Won’t Be Soldiers” – New Strict Regulations Anger Doctors’ Organizations

Fanni Kaszás 2020.10.08.

The Hungarian Parliament passed the draft bill on a significant increase in doctors’ salaries and the abolishing of gratitude money on Wednesday. However, many doctors, the Hungarian Medical Chamber (MOK), and the trade union voiced their concerns in connection with the bill. According to the president of MOK, their ultimate desired goal is almost the same as that of the government, but there are differences in terms of timing and regulations. On the other hand, according to the doctors’ trade union, the state care system could stumble under the law passed in a rapid manner.

The bill on the wage increase for doctors submitted by the government on Monday and passed by parliament on Tuesday, will not only reshape doctors’ salaries, but also their medical status, as the opportunities for those working in private and state care may be significantly reduced, which of course will also affect patients.

The Hungarian Medical Chamber said on Wednesday that they think further consultation on the adopted law is necessary. According to the organization, the one-step implementation of a law submitted without prior consultation within the time limits set by law, seriously jeopardizes the functioning of the care system and violates the fundamental rights of doctors. They added that after analyzing the final text of the law and drafting their proposals, they will ask for the law to be amended and for the implemented regulations to be drafted jointly.

They firmly stated: “We won’t be soldiers,” referring to the possibility of secondment and unconditional transfer for up to two years, adding that because of this, most doctors will prefer private care.

Despite Historic Rise, Bill re: Doctors' Salaries Consists of 'Unacceptable' Points, says Medical Chamber
Despite Historic Rise, Bill re: Doctors' Salaries Consists of 'Unacceptable' Points, says Medical Chamber

After a meeting between the government and the Hungarian Medical Chamber (MOK) on Saturday, the doubling of medical workers’ salaries and the withdrawal of gratitude money from the Hungarian healthcare system came within reach. A bill to that effect appeared on Parliament’s website on Monday after it had been tabled. However, according to the MOK, […]Continue reading

However, the MOK wants most of all a safe, adequate standard of care within a sustainable structure, so the president also indicated that their ultimate desired goal is almost the same as that of the government, but there are differences of opinion on timing and regulations.

The Hungarian Medical Union (MOSZ) is asking President János Áder not to sign the law on the legal status of healthcare service, which was adopted on October 6th, the organization said on Thursday morning.

The union explains that a new status law was not needed to increase medical wages and abolish gratitude money. These issues could have been addressed in the current Civil Service Status Act, the Labor Code, and the Penal Code. They added that the government introduced its bill without complying with the Legislation Act, stating:

“…we consider it offensive and illegal that the submission of the bill was not preceded by a social debate, that there was no real consultation with the professional and advocacy organizations on the text of the law. The Trade Union of Hungarian Doctors has only been given three hours to comment on the bill.”

According to them, the law violates several relevant international conventions and creates legal uncertainty among nearly one hundred thousand healthcare professionals. By allowing the government to regulate the fundamental rights and obligations of workers by decree, this law is a huge step backwards in terms of enforcing workers’ rights and legal certainty in Hungary, they wrote. In their opinion, the ban on taking up second jobs and operating in the form of self-employment in healthcare is a serious violation of Hungarian and European law. In their view, it is unacceptable and unnecessary that the law seeks to provide an opportunity to direct health care workers to another workplace for 1 + 1 years, which could even break up families and violate the right to free employment.

As a trade union, the organization considers it unacceptable that the law prohibits the conclusion of a collective agreement in institutions covered by the law. The law further restricts the exercise of the right to hold a strike in the healthcare sector in addition to the strike law. They also consider it unacceptable that “the right to strike may be exercised only by law in accordance with specific rules laid down in an agreement to be concluded between the Government and the unions concerned.” The union believes that these statutory provisions result in a gross curtailment of trade union rights and unnecessarily and unlawfully restrict the right of workers to represent their interests.

They added that the new law gives the government authority to regulate all basic employee rights that were previously regulated at the statutory level. According to MOSZ, the government is entitled to change the wage scale in the annex to the law almost the day after the law enters into force, but the government may also issue regulations by decree on issues containing basic rights and obligations of employment.

Gov’t: some issues to be regulated next month

At today’s press conference of the government, Gergely Gulyás, the Head of the Prime Minister’s Office, talked about the points of the new law that the organizations are concerned about. He said that it in fact allows the hospital to restrict, but not to prohibit the private practices of the doctors. Gulyás said that if the hospital allows it, it is possible to pursue a private practice in addition to the state hospital work. However, the government thinks a doctor should not work more than 10-12 hours a day as this cannot be done responsibly.

Gulyás also said that the transfer of doctors is now only an important issue because of the epidemic situation. The government decree will also regulate this, as well as the issue of employment beyond hospital work, which will be adopted by November at the latest.

featured photo: Zoltán Balogh/MTI