Romania's centrist government has survived a parliamentary vote of no confidence initiated by the opposition over a package of health reform laws.
(Bucharest Daily News, Nine o'Clock - 22/02/06; AP, Reuters - 21/02/06)
"We are creating a health care system for the benefit of the citizen, not for the benefit of some people who work in the system," Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu told a joint session of parliament. [Getty Images]
Romania's centrist government survived a parliamentary vote of no-confidence Tuesday (21 February), thus also securing the automatic passage of a package of health reform laws aimed at improving the ailing sector's efficiency and bringing it closer to EU standards.
After four hours of heated and highly politicised debate, the ruling coalition won the vote by 246 to 214. Several MPs representing parties in the ruling coalition reportedly supported the opposition's motion.
Seeking to avoid lengthy parliamentary debates and to ensure the speedy approval of the proposed bills, Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu moved to invoke special powers last week, saying his government was assuming responsibility for the legislation.
In response, the opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the Greater Romanian Party (PRM) filed the no-confidence motion, describing the laws as "anti-reform". The left-wing PSD, which was in power from 2000 to 2004, argued that the proposed reforms would harm ordinary people and limit their right to health protection.
"The real beneficiaries of this legislation are the wealthy and we firmly reject this anti-social and unconstitutional initiative by the government," PSD Vice President Titus Corlatean said. "This reform does not deal with the biggest problem of the health system, which is an acute lack of money."
Accusing the PSD of being responsible for the current poor state of the country's health system, Tariceanu said the only motive for the opposition's move was to block health reforms designed to improve patient care.
"We are creating a health care system for the benefit of the citizens, not for the benefit of some people who work in the system," the prime minister said during a joint session of parliament.
Increased state support for the health sector has failed to resolve problems confronting it, such as negligence, conflict of interest and corruption, as well as the pervasive lack of financial discipline, accountability and transparency, Tariceanu said last week. "The public health has gotten worse while funds allocated to health care have grown steadily," he stressed, noting that in 2005 alone, Romania spent 2.8 billion euros on health care.
Citing a World Bank report, Reuters said Romanians paid 303m euros in bribes for health services in 2004.
Before its submission to parliament, the government-proposed reforms were subject to a nearly three-month public debate involving health experts, patients' associations, ministers, politicians and others.
The legislation includes laws on national health programmes, on public and private health insurance systems and on hospitals. Separate laws deal with the status of physicians, dentists and pharmacists.
Legislative provisions, aimed at reducing corruption, improving health care and boosting the cash-strapped system's revenues, include the introduction of new taxes and measures to raise the accountability of health service managers.
The PSD said on Tuesday its next step would be to challenge the health reform laws before the Constitutional Court.