Health Minister Vili Beros said after an inner cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the debt to wholesalers was discussed after they set conditions for further medical deliveries, adding that he understands them but that they are increasing pressure ahead of elections and budget revision.
And that is being repeated each year, he added.
Beros said that he had informed Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic of the situation with wholesalers and that the problem was observed from various angles and that this is a problem that has continued for decades, adding that they also discussed ways to find a solution to it.
He announced that at the next meeting he would inform them that he would come into contact with domestic and international producers on behalf of the government.
He underlined that he is certain that a solution will be found. "Money exists and I spoke about our efforts to help all participants in this problem," Beros said.
He added that there were certain questions that had been put to wholesalers and once "we get some answers we will be able to discuss repayments,"' he added.
The minister assured that hospitals can manage for some time even if the distribution of medicines ceases but did not wish to specify for how long.
"I think we will find a solution before the end of the month," he underlined.
Curfew last resort
Beros warned of the latest number of coronavirus infections and announced that time was needed to see the effects of the latest measures introduced.
"If some positive trends do not occur we will most certainly introduce additional measures that will be balanced and will primarily focus on limiting gatherings," he said.
Asked whether a curfew would be imposed, Beros said that some countries had done so already and that that would be the last thing to be introduced if need be, adding that before that there were other measures that could be introduced.
New meeting with wholesalers
Finance Minister Zdravko Maric announced a new meeting with drug wholesalers later this week or early next week. He explained that the structure of the debt and due payments need to be analysed and that an amount of HRK 300 million could possibly be found during the budget revision.
"The financial system is not viable and we have to fix that. It is high time to put these issues on the table," he said.
He said he did not say that the distribution of medicines to hospitals should be stopped and added that the coronavirus crisis had resulted in an increase in costs due to the need to procure masks, visors and other protective equipment.
"Apart from that, some specific medicines, whose prices are measured in millions of kuna, have also increased and they are also related to the Covid epidemic. The cost of testing amounts to more than 200 million kuna," Minister Beros explained.
Speaking in an interview with the HRT public television service in the evening, Maric said that the debt to drug wholesalers was almost HRK 5 billion while the total debt by the health system surpassed HRK 10 billion. "We are not running away from the fact that we have to settle this and we will. We need to prevent new debts from occurring," he said.
The entire health system needs to be fundamentally reformed, he underlined. He believes that it will not come to that that medicines will not be distributed and that there will not be any shortage of medication.
Budget revision - all available funds to be used for job retention
Referring to the budget revision, Maric said that it would include everything that was covered by the revision in May.
All available funds that we have will be directed at keeping jobs. So far we've paid HRK 7 billion in jobkepeing subsidies. A lot of money went towards tax writte-offs and the health system too and this revision will go in that direction too, he said.