Medical Brain Drain and the Urgent Need to Reform the Hungarian Healthcare System

Hungary, 22 Nov - 19 Dec 2015
Will countrywide databases make Healthcare secure? ++ War on women's role fought with pregnancy tests and cancelled contracts ++ “Every terrorist is a migrant” – PM's claim undermined by raids on Hungarians. by Balázs Márton, Silvia Petzoldt
Will countrywide databases make Healthcare secure?

Healthcare professionals demonstrated against low wages and bad working conditions. This is seen as a signal for the national conservative government of Prime Minister Viktór Orbán (Fidesz party) to speed up planned changes in the healthcare system. According to observers the emigration of well-educated doctors reached a peak in late November and early December, when several hospitals in the capital city of Budapest announced that they were no longer able to provide sufficient health care for all patients.

István Éger, Director of the Medical Council, stated that there was a risk for national security, if no efforts were taken to increase the salaries of doctors. Health professionals are leaving Hungary to work abroad because of low wages and poor working conditions. While medical brain drain had been a primarily rural problem, it has now spread to the capital. In certain areas patient health is jeopardized because health institutions cannot provide the minimum personnel.

The government is trying to improve the situation by implementing an electronical database which stores all healthcare-related data of citizens countrywide. The 35,1 million euro (11 billion Hungarian forint) IT test infrastructure provides doctors with information on the patients’ medical records and prescriptions. Moreover, pharmacies will be able to check previous prescriptions electronically, thus reducing the risk of undesirable side effects due to chemical reactions between medicines. Critics of the new large-scale data storage, however, point out that it severely restricts citizens’ right of self-determination. Many criticise that patients do not have the option to object to the storage of their data.

War on women's role fought with pregnancy tests and cancelled contracts

János Lázár, Head of the Prime Minister's Office, has announced that couples pledging to have three children in ten years may benefit from a ten million Forint (approximately 32,000 Euros) payment to buy a real estate. On top of the non-refundable support, they may also get the same amount as a low-interest loan.

A few days before Lázár made the government’s plans public, László Kövér, Speaker of the Parliament had given a controversial speech at the annual conference of the governing national conservative Fidesz party. He lashed out at gender equality and emancipatory efforts that he called “gender madness” and said that Fidesz wanted “our daughters to consider it to be the utmost quality of their self-fulfillment to bear grandchildren for us.”

His words were echoed by popular pop star Ákos Kovács (known by his stage name “Ákos”) in a TV interview: “It is not the women's job to make as much money as men do”. Instead, he claims, they should “fulfill the principle of women,” namely to “belong to someone, to bear children for someone.”

These comments sparked an enormous wave of criticism. Even Fidesz’s highest-ranking female politicians, party vice president Ildikó Pelczné Gáll and state secretary for family policy Katalin Novák distanced themselves from László Kövér’s statements. Many Hungarian women showed their disagreement with Köver’s beliefs by mailing him their negative pregnancy tests.

Ákos’ comments caused a shit storm on Facebook, and the Hungarian subsidiary of German telecom giant Deutsche Telekom terminated a sponsorship agreement with the musician. In retaliation, many of its conservative customers publicly cancelled their contracts with Deutsche Telekom. Furthermore, the government announced that it would do the same (although later it was revealed that only mobile internet subscriptions would be affected). Government spokesman Zoltán Kovács overtly linked the measure to the case of Ákos, saying that the termination of his contract was unconstitutional. He stated “It may be possible to do such a thing in Germany, but we deem it to be unacceptable to discriminate against someone for his opinion in Hungary today.”

“Every terrorist is a migrant” – PM Orbán’s claim undermined by raids on Hungarians

He did it again: Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stirred controversy on migration, claiming in the wake of the Paris attacks that “all the terrorists are basically migrants”. The right-wing politician gave a lengthy interview to the European edition of the US political journalism organization Politico that voted him on top of “Politico 28”, a list of people who are the most worth following in the months ahead.

In the interview Orbán said that there was an “overwhelming logical connection” between terrorism and the movement of Muslims into Europe. He added that “the majority of our leaders in the West denied the fact” due to political correctness.

However, his message was undermined by events in Hungary. Only two days after the interview, the Hungarian Anti-Terror Centre (TEK) announced that in two raids, it has apprehended people with “extremist views” armed with bombs and weapons. The leader of TEK, János Hajdu, insinuated that the suspects were Jihadists and that they could have international connections. However, one of the groups turned out to be WWII enthusiasts who collected weapons and bombs from the era using metal detectors. One of them was a member of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia, hence they were in a sense “international”. According to officially unconfirmed reports, the other group really planned an attack – even on the PM himself – but consisted of Hungarian right-wing extremists.

Social Media