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New health minister denounces ruling party pressure on hospital staff

By Anna Kamushadze
Wednesday, February 13
On February 11 newly-appointed Minister of Health, Labor and Social Affairs Sandro Kvitashvili publicly instructed healthcare system staff not to fill out unauthorized political forms distributed to hospitals by self-identified ruling party workers.

The minister described the forms as requesting a count of both government political supporters and opposition supporters among hospital staff.

“There was no order from the government to gather this kind of information,” the minister said. “The Health Ministry and I ask all medical institutions in Georgia not to fill out these forms, and not to deliver them to anyone. Nobody needs them.”

According to Kvitashvili, the forms have been handed out only in Tbilisi.

A spokesperson for the Health Ministry told the Messenger that the people who distributed the forms told the chief doctors to fill them out, and promised to return to collect them.

The spokesperson said the forms were sent out on February 10 and 11, but declined to name the hospitals which reported receiving them.

“We raised the alarm. Now, the bodies responsible for handling this will do so,” the spokesperson stated.

Representatives of the capital’s major hospitals, including Republic Hospital and the Imedi clinic, denied receiving the forms.

The ruling National Movement party was criticized by local and international watchdogs for intimidating voters during the presidential campaign late last year, including through state employees or students being pressured into signing statements of support for incumbent Mikheil Saakashvili.

National Movement leaders publicly condemned those actions, blaming low-level party operatives for overstepping their bounds.

Kvitashvili, the health minister, was appointed to his post after the presidential election, interrupting a career in America and bringing a non-partisan reputation of competence to the job.