Hungarian Health Care Workers Stage Demonstrations, Strikes Nationwide

Agence France Presse, 9 December 2000

BUDAPEST, Dec 9, 2000—Hungarian health care workers have staged a series of warning strikes and demonstrations nationwide to protest “miserable” financial conditions in the sector, organizers said Friday.

So far, 28 hospitals and clinics have held two-hour warning strikes and several protests since Thursday, said the Democratic Union of Health Care Workers (EDDSZ), which organized the work actions.

“With this series of actions, we want to warn parliamentary deputies prior to the vote on a two-year budget that the budget plan fails to finance a pledged wage rise and projects the collapse of patient care,” said EDDSZ head Agnes Cser.

“This is the last moment before the collapse. The budget in its current form would not finance the running of hospitals,” Cser told state radio.

A vote on the budget for the next two years, devised by conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban's coalition government, is due in Parliament on Tuesday.

Hospital directors from all quarters reported Friday that “the patients understood what was at stake and patiently waited until the strike was over”.

But Health Minister Arpad Gogl slammed the demonstrations as “senseless” and charged the union has staged them “with political intentions”.

In Hungary, doctors and nurses are among the worst paid employees in the country, and state-employed doctors are taking tips from patients to make ends meet.

Various international organizations, including the European Union — which Hungary wants to join—and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, have repeatedly urged Hungary's government to overhaul its health care system.

Gogl admitted “there are tensions in the health care institutions” but said “the institutes can take care of them locally,” the MTI news agency quoted him as saying.