Covid-19: Bulgarian Medical Association complains to PM about National Health Insurance Fund

In a December 4 open letter to Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, the Bulgarian Medical Association (BMA) has launched a swingeing attack on the National Health Insurance Fund, accusing it of “behaving as if an epidemic does not exist and neglecting the seriousness of the situation”.

The BMA said that for almost 10 months, Bulgarian medics had been on the front lines, sparing no effort and showing stoicism, self-denial and sacrifice in the fight against Covid-19.

“Many of our colleagues are currently fighting for their lives, and more than 50 medics have died,” it said in the open letter to Borissov.

The BMA said that it closely monitoring the measures taken by the state to deal with the difficult situation facing Bulgaria “and we believe that for the most part they are adequate and timely”.

“We are familiar with the budget of the National Health Insurance Fund and that of the state for next year and the planned buffers for the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic.”

The BMA said that it was clearly aware of its role as an organisation that should support the process of timely and correct implementation of the measures taken and their timely reaching medical personnel.

“Unfortunately, for the entire period from March until now, against the background of the thousands of lives scarred by Covid-19, the management of the National Health Insurance Fund behaves as if an epidemic does not exist and neglects the seriousness of the situation.”

Each of the anti-epidemic measures, announced by the National Operational Headquarters or the Cabinet, instead of entering into force as a matter of urgency, happens with a very long delay, due to targeted attempts at delay, bureaucratic approach and administrative obstacles by the NHIF management, the BMA said.

More than two months between the announcement of the decision to open Covid-19 beds in all medical institutions and the conclusion of contracts with the hospitals that had not treated Covid-19 patients until then. This was because of the NHIF’s refusal to conclude contracts with medical institutions, the association said.

“The opportunity to test all Bulgarian citizens with symptoms of Covid-19 who have consulted their GPs was also postponed by almost three months after the announcement of the decision. The reason – again a delay by the NHIF,” the letter said.

The most recent measures announced regarding financial provision of outpatient care facilities – medical centres and general practitioners, had in practice only been able to be implemented now, with less than a month left until the end of the year.

The BMA said that at its most recent meeting with the NHIF to discuss the work of physicians in the coming year and the annexe to the national framework agreement for 2020-2022, its questions had got responses such as “no money” and “it’s not up to us”.

“Behaviour that is categorically unacceptable and a mockery of the Bulgarian medics, who are still on the battlefield, a mockery of our colleagues who are still fighting for their lives, a mockery of the memory of those who died,” the BMA said.

Separately on December 3, the official website announced that in terms of an agreement between the NHIF and the BMA, a referral for a PCR test will also be issued to individuals who test positive in a rapid antigen test performed by an authorized medical care provider.

In other news on December 4 related to the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria:

Businesses in the city of Plovdiv have sent an open letter to the municipal crisis headquarters objecting to the December 3 decision to ban all large-scale events in the city up to the end of December.

The ban means that the Christmas in Kapana, Christmas Crafts Fair and Pendara Farmers Market cannot go ahead.

The letter, noting that the existing municipal markets remain open, asked the headquarters to clarify “what makes private Christmas markets more dangerous than municipal ones?”

Naming several foreign-owned retail chains and supermarkets, it asked how open-air Christmas bazaars were more dangerous to public health than large chain stores.

“For society, it seems as if the interests of the wealthy foreign lobbyists are protected, unlike the food of the Bulgarian producers, craftsmen and artists,” the letter said.

It also asked how the ice rink on Central Square, which remains open, was safer to public health.

“We ask the municipality of Plovdiv for permission to hold the already organised Christmas bazaars, and we responsibly declare that we will observe all safety measures. We call for fair and logical solutions to avoid harming working Bulgarians due to unpredictability and inconsistency in crisis management.

“We remind you that not all people have a secure salary and the deprivation of the opportunity to do their work will leave many artists and craftsmen without a livelihood during the holidays, without prospects and funds in the winter months,” the letter said.

It said that private organisations such as Kapana Fest Ltd already paid in full their fees, in spite of reduced traffic because of the pandemic and without using financial assistance from the state.

Promising that exhibitors would be wearing masks and provide disinfectant for personal and client use.

“Do not take away the hope coming from the upcoming bright holidays. We call on you, be people, not tyrants. Thank you for your understanding and trust in our work,” the letter said.

(Photo: Iwan Beijes)

The Sofia Globe’s coverage of the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria is supported by the Embassies of Switzerland and Finland.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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