Bulgarian medics allied to the Podkrepa medical union were to show their support for Health Minister Petar Moskov by displaying posters on ambulances on December 11 backing Moskov’s stance on the need for security for emergency medical teams after a rash of attacks on them this year.
Moskov has been caught up in controversy by speaking specifically about the fact that most of the 277 attacks on medical teams in 2014 have been in Roma areas. This has brought allegations against him of racism and a call from an opposition party for Moskov to resign from the cabinet.
The Podkrepa medical union members said that they were “outraged” by attempts by some politicians and NGOs to accuse Moskov of making the problem an ethnic one.
Podkrepa said that safety of emergency medical teams should be secured wherever there was a risk.
Moskov has apologised to Roma health organisations for inappropriate ethnic rhetoric regarding attacks on emergency medical assistance teams, Bulgarian National Television reported on December 11.
Moskov has accepted the help of mediators to reduce tensions between the Roma community and medics.
The mediators are people specially trained to liase between Roma communities and health authorities. The idea is that the use of mediators should swiftly eliminate the need for a police presence in areas where the safety of medical teams is at risk.
Dimitrinka Borissova of the National Network of Health Mediators said that “people are just not talking to each other, and perhaps that is the main problem. So good mediation would produce results”.
Professor Ivailo Tounev of the Minority Health Problems Foundation said that trained mediators also would work in emergency centres where there were problems.
“It turns out that in most places where there are problems, such as Botevrad and Pernik, there are no health mediators,” Tournev said.
Bulgaria has 150 health mediators for 80 municipalities. “But there are municipalities that do not understand the benefits of their presence and refuse to appoint mediators.”
Moskov intends pressing municipalities to appoint mediators in every municipality where there are minority groups.
Milen Milanov, of the Integro Association, said that Roma experts and specialists should be appointed within administrations to help launch reforms and reduce the negative statistics.
At a meeting on December 10 between Moskov and representatives of Roma communities in Bulgaria, it was agreed that police teams would accompany ambulances in all areas where cases of assaults of medical teams had been registered.
At the meeting, a representative of the Roma organisation World without Borders from Stara Zagora in southern Bulgaria, said that attacks on doctors are usually due to late arrival or absence of adequate care.
Moskov said that understanding has been achieved with the representatives of the Roma NGOs.
“In addition to the concrete measures we defined, we also agreed that the quality of
emergency aid should improve, for which both structural and financial measures will be planned. However, nothing can justify any violence against doctors doing their job,” Moskov said, as quoted by Bulgarian news agency BTA.
The “Faculteta” association, however, considered that it would be a much more appropriate idea that when an ambulance is going to a Roma area, its driver should be Roma.
Kiril Vassilev, head of a steering committee from Sofia’s biggest Roma neighbourhood, said that an ambulance on duty should be present in the neighbourhood at all times. The ambulance team should have a Roma participant, or at least a Roma driver who knows the neighbourhood, Vassilev said.