The Hungarian Medical Chamber (MOK) turned to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán concerning the salaries of doctors, because in Hungary a starting emergency room doctor earns HUF 170,000 a month (EUR 491), roughly as much as an employee of a fast-food restaurant. The MOK fears that if the government does not raise wages, even more doctors could leave the country or even the profession altogether.
Péter Álmos, vice-president of the Hungarian Medical Chamber (MOK), said to Hungarian commercial channel RTL Klub, that although the extra benefit of HUF 500,000 (EUR 1445) promised by Viktor Orbán to healthcare workers due to the coronavirus pandemic and their fight on the front-lines comes in handy, it is not enough. Doctors want regularity and a predictable life, Álmos said.
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The vice president added that a starting emergency room doctor takes home HUF 170,000 a month, so the hourly wage is not more than that of a fast-food restaurant worker, while specialist doctors also earn less than skilled workers. He also talked about the fact that there is no trace of wage increases for doctors in next year’s draft budget, which they had already discussed with the government before the epidemic. The MOK fears that if the government does not raise wages, even more doctors could leave the country or even the profession.
The organization wrote the prime minister a letter in which they ask for a pay rise for doctors. They ask for a starting doctor to have a net salary of HUF 3,000 (EUR 8,5) per hour, a specialist to receive HUF 4,500 (EUR 13) per hour, and a specialist who has been working for 40 years in the profession to receive HUF 7,500 (EUR 22).
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In the letter to Orbán, Gyula Kincses, the organization’s president, urges the wage settlement of healthcare workers and emphasizes that the epidemic has highlighted the urgent need for structural and financial renewal of Hungarian healthcare. Kincses wrote to the Prime Minister, saying: “you also know that private healthcare is not a solution in itself and is not accessible to millions of Hungarians: not only in the more severe phase of the epidemic, but also for organizational and equipment reasons, during the busy period of restarting healthcare. The protection of the health of the Hungarian people can no longer be built on the net hourly wage of HUF 900 (EUR 2,6), which is the same amount as that of fast-food restaurant workers, and HUF 1,700 (EUR 4,9), which is lower than that of skilled workers.”
Opposition Momentum MEP Katalin Cseh, whose original profession is a doctor, also raised her voice on the matter. The liberal politician said that as a student worker in a supermarket chain as a yogurt promoter, her hourly wage was higher than that of a resident physician’s. The politician asked Fidesz member Erik Bánki at an online conference of Republikon Institute on Tuesday afternoon, in response to the government’s announcement that they plan to raise the wages of healthcare workers by 18% next year:
A starting resident works for HUF 900 (EUR 2,60) per hour. If this is increased by 18%, it is still only HUF 1062 (EUR 3,07). When I was in university, as a student worker, I tasted yogurt for HUF 1,200 per hour. Do you think this is a proportional increase? Would you work for such an hourly rate?
Bánki replied with saying “of course, it could be higher, and it has to be higher,” continuing with listing how much the salaries of doctors working in different positions have increased since Fidesz has been governing the country. He added that “over the last ten years, doctors’ salaries have increased the most. A doctor with 7-9 years of experience now earns HUF 772,000 (EUR 2200) gross.” Bánki added that this figure is three times the 2010 numbers.
Negotiations between the MOK and the Ministry of Human Resources (EMMI) on pay raises began in January but then they stopped due to the coronavirus epidemic. The MOK president claims the ministry has not responded to the chamber’s suggestions since then. The EMMI replied to a question by RTL Klub that doctors’ wages had risen 2.5 -fold since 2010, with the government aiming to raise wages further, and talks on this will continue after the epidemic.
Gov’t: Wage Hike in Health-Care Sector Significant
Meanwhile, concerning wages in the health-care sector, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office said that nurses will see their wages rise by 72 percent in the current parliamentary cycle. Though this hike will still not bridge the gap to the average wage in western Europe, it is still the largest increase seen under any government, Gergely Gulyás said. He vowed that nurses would still receive a 20 percent wage hike this year in spite of the difficult economic climate. He added that the government was also prepared to conduct talks with doctors on further pay rises once the epidemic has subsided.
featured photo: illustration, Zoltán Balogh/MTI