Protesting healthcare specialists demand reforms in Bulgaria’s healthcare and decent wages

Photo: BGNES

Chaos and confusion in the healthcare system, lack of remuneration criteria and lack of respect are among the main reasons for the recent protests of the Bulgarian healthcare specialists. The protests began on March 1 this year with the national protest of the Bulgarian nurses. Later, protests erupted in many Bulgarian towns and caused daily mass discontent among paramedics, laboratory assistants, obstetricians and physio-therapists.

We do not want to receive something for nothing, Maya Ilieva who is one of the organizers of the national protests of the Bulgarian healthcare specialists told Radio Bulgaria. The Europeans have been receiving decent wages for a long time. At the end of the day we take care of peoples’ lives and this is what matters the most. We are not fighting for ourselves only. This fight is also for the Bulgarian patients, as well as for a complete change of the healthcare system in this country.

The division of the Bulgarian physio-therapists into rehabilitation therapists and kinesiotherapists, who are practically doing the same job for different remuneration, is among the reason for their discontent.

We want to be called officiallyphysio-therapists like in all other European countries, Vildan Ahmed who studies a Master’s degree in kinesiotherapy at the National Sports Academy commented. However, this is not the only reason for discontent among our colleagues. The procedures approved by the Bulgarian National Healthcare Fund on a monthly basis are quite insufficient for any treatment. Let alone, the neurological diseases where treatment lasts for months. Few people can afford a treatment which is not reimbursed by a clinical pathway under the National Healthcare Fund.

Wages are truly humiliating, Physiotherapist Ivan Ivanov notes. The minimum salary in Bulgaria is 560 Leva (EUR 280) and people who start this profession receive 580 Leva (EUR 290). Our salaries are equal to the wages of the hospital attendants, but they do not have to study for 5 whole years to take a Master’s degree.

That is why the Association ofPhysiotherapists insists that a standard developed by the ones employed in this profession should be introduced. The new standard has to assess and regulate the physical therapies as they are. The protesters say categorically that it is about time the authorities adopted a new Act on Professional Organizations in Healthcare which has to regulate the specifics of all activities in the sector.

We want to have individual professional organizations such as the organizations of the Bulgarian doctors, dentists, pharmacists, assistant pharmacists and dental mechanics, Alexander Alexandrov, Chairman of the Association of Bulgarian Paramedics told Radio Bulgaria. It is strange why pharmacists and dental mechanics have their own professional organizations and the rest of the healthcare specialist don’t.

The protesters appreciate the efforts of Bulgaria’s Minister of Health Kiril Ananiev to pay attention to their demands, but are still waiting for concrete actions:

Bulgaria’s Minister of Health Kiril Ananiev promised that by the end of this month he will announce the new methodology that will be used to calculate our remuneration, Tsenka Panteva, Deputy-Chairperson of the Association of Bulgarian Physiotherapists told Radio Bulgaria. Moreover, he gave us time to present him our proposals about the new Act on Professional Organizations in Healthcare. We must start from this act.

Maya Ilieva doubted the new methodology used for distribution of financial resource which will be introduced experimentally in some hospitals in the beginning of May. They say there is political will to solve this problem, but unfortunately we don’t believe that, Maya Ilieva commented and added:

Our next big protest will be held on May 15 in front of the Council of Ministers’ building. The protests will continue across Bulgaria until then. Now I am here to support my colleagues-the Bulgarian physiotherapists. Although each specialty has its own specifics, we are all connected and will fight together to the end to change the current system.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

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