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President proposes new healthcare initiative

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, January 29
President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili has outlined the details of a new insurance package for those insured by the State. The changes require the insurance companies to sign an agreement with the Government to build new hospitals in the regions of Georgia. The first stage of new hospital construction should be completed by September 2011, the President said at a meeting in his Avlabari Residence on Thursday.

“Our aim and ambition is to make our healthcare system available for everyone and to make it equal to the system of world’s leading countries,” Saakashvili stated, adding that healthcare and education are the priorities of the Georgian State. The State will refund 50% of the cost of certain medicines for those with the new insurance package, the President said. He listed several medications which the State is ready to pay half the cost of, including some blood pressure regulating medicines, some for heart and stomach diseases and Nitroglycerine, Paracetamol, Validol and Purosemid.

“If the insured person buys medicine for 20 lari, we will refund 10 lari, i.e. half the price. The insurance also includes funding ambulatory and other types of treatment. This means that we will be able to make healthcare available for a big part of the population,” Saakashvili said. “Many people die merely because they do not have enough money for medicine. We have now introduced insurance for people in need, however medications remain a problem. The previous insurance did not cover medicines of primary need,” Saakashvili stated.

Saakashvili criticised the poor conditions in most Georgian hospitals. “There are hospitals where about 15 people are placed in one room and the doctors are also not qualified. We should end this. By September next year all hospitals should become like the ones in Zugdidi, Kutaisi, Gori and Tbilisi’s Republican Hospital,” the President said.

The insurance companies now take people insured by the State to hospitals with “quite bad” service, Georgian Prime Nika Gilauri said at the meeting with Saakashvili. “We want to have certain standards in place from September of next year, stating that insurance companies cannot take people funded or partly funded by the Government to hospitals with standards below a certain level,” Gilauri said. “On the one hand this means defending the rights of our citizens and on the other hand it can be a good stimulus for the insurance companies and other private companies to start building new hospitals and small-size clinics in Georgia’s regions,” he added.

The Parliamentary minority Christian Democrats have criticised the planned changes in the healthcare system, claiming that the Government's health policy is “unsuccessful.” “This could cause a complete collapse of the system,” leader of the Christian-Democratic Movement Giorgi Targamadze said at a special briefing on Thursday. Handing hospitals in the regions to insurance companies is “unacceptable", Targamadze told journalists. “Handing the hospitals to insurance companies and letting the pharmaceutical companies import and sell medicines will only increase the price of these medications due to the uncompetitive environment in the country,” Targamadze claimed.

The healthcare system remains one of the most problematic in Georgia, according to the CDM leader. “Despite the fact that the Government is conducting experiments and unsuccessfully trying to improve the situation, for most of the population good quality healthcare remains unavailable. In this situation it is obvious that the new initiatives of the Government will only worsen the situation and lead the system into deadlock,” Targamadze stated.