Budapest, October 13 (MTI) – Zoltan Onodi-Szucs will be the new state secretary for health, the head of the ministry of human resources that controls the health portfolio told a news conference on Tuesday.
Onodi-Szucs, until now the head of the state health services center (AEEK), said that his primary aim is to serve the interests of the public rather than the sector’s institutions.
“We want people to feel that their problems are addressed, as this has gone by the wayside in the past,” Onodi-Szucs said.
Hungarian health-care institutions are, nevertheless, up to European standards, he added.
Tasks will include improving basic health-care services and boosting public satisfaction, he said. Incentives for health-care workers will be changed, too, he said, adding that career-ladder pay scales were unlikely to be implemented and collective contracts would apply instead.
On the subject of hospital financing, Onodi-Szucs said the current situation was unclear since funds are distributed based on institutional interests. In future, public needs must be gauged before resources are allocated. If clear goals are set, matching funds should not be a problem, he added.
Regarding a planned “super hospital” for Budapest, he said it was likely to be built on the Buda side of the city. Thirteen sites are currently being considered, he said, adding that planning should be completed by the end of 2016.
The prime minister has signed the state secretary’s appointment papers and these await the president’s signature.
He will replace Gabor Zombor, who resigned from the post at the end of August citing personal and family reasons.
Onodi-Szucs has previously headed the Kenezy Hospital in Debrecen, in eastern Hungary. He became a regional director of the state-owned health-care management institute GYEMSZI (renamed AEEK) in February, 2012 before being appointed as its head.
The radical nationalist Jobbik party said the appointment of a new state secretary means that Fidesz has “no long-term solution” for fixing health care. The party said in a statement that although Onodi-Szucs says he intends to focus on the problems of the people, he should “come clean” on how much money he can get the government to spend on health care. Jobbik said that if the state secretary fails to persuade the government to spend enough, public health care is set for a “prolonged crisis”. Jobbik said it expects Onodi-Szucs to find solutions to hospitals’ growing debts, the emigration of health-care workers and the sector’s “general underfunding”.
The Socialists said appointing a new state secretary just means “changing the bed under the patient”. It does not help a patient on life support, Lajos Korozs, the party’s lawmaker said, drawing an analogy with the current state of health care in Hungary.
People are more interested in what is to become of ailing hospitals saddled with huge debts and long waiting lists, Korozs said in a statement sent to MTI on Tuesday. People want the same standards of services for everyone, decent pay for health-care workers and “they don’t want their taxpayer forints to be spent on stadiums and the luxury villas of Fidesz politicians,” the statement said.
The oppisition Egyutt party said that although Onodi-Szucs “appears prepared” to handle the job, it is not enough to appoint a single person. The party called on the government to “reexamine the state of the entire health-care sector” and to put an end to its underfunding. Zoltan Komaromi said in a statement that Hungary’s public health care is “chronically ill” because the government has failed to properly restructure it and because it generally ignores the social and health-care sectors.
The opposition LMP said it hoped Onodi-Szucs would act as a “tough lobbyist” in the government for increased funding for the sector. But it is worrying that as head of the AEEK — an institution entrusted to settle hospital debts — he failed in that task, LMP said in a statement. The new state secretary will hopefully preside over wage rises for nurses and doctors, otherwise health-care professionals will continue to leave the country, the party added.
The Dilalogue for Hungary (PM) party said it expects the new state secretary to reduce the number of hospital infections and deaths. The party also called on Onodi-Szucs to curb the emigration of doctors and nurses by introducing a “radical wage hike”.