Prime Minister Janez Janša presents the candidacy for the Minister of Health
- Former Prime Minister Janez Janša (2020 - 2022)
At today's 62th extraordinary session, the National Assembly considered the proposal of the candidacy of Janez Poklukar for the post of Minister of Health. He was proposed for this function by Prime Minister Janša pursuant to the first paragraph of Article 112 of the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia, and Articles 229 and 234 of the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly.
At the session of the National Assembly, Prime Minister Janša presented the grounds for the proposal and the candidacy. According to his presentation, Janez Poklukar received his medical degree from the Medical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana. His first workplace was the Jesenice General Hospital. In the beginning of 2013, he became Head of the Department of Internal Medicine, where he was responsible for organisational, professional and business management. A year later, he was appointed Acting Director and later full term Director of the Jesenice General Hospital, which he successfully managed until July 2019. During this time, he also successfully completed the institute’s financial restructuring.
"In August 2019, he took over the management of the Ljubljana University Medical Centre, Slovenia's largest health facility. There, he encountered complex financial issues, the hospital’s difficult financial position, and restructuring procedures, which he took on as a challenge. Later on, he was met with further challenges as a consequence of the growing coronavirus epidemic," said Prime Minister Janša. Further, he said that, under the management of Janez Poklukar, the Ljubljana University Medical Centre had provided treatment to the largest number of COVID-19 patients in the country through good organisation, cooperation and knowledge of the issues. In addition, the Ljubljana University Medical Centre management successfully completed the renovation and construction of the premises that had been going on for 12 years within ten days, and managed to put them into service in the most critical moments.
"In his work, Mr Poklukar set high standards and demonstrated high managerial and professional competencies, as well as excellent knowledge of the Slovenian health care system, its advantages and disadvantages," said the Prime Minister. He added that the ministerial candidate presented himself in more detail at a long hearing at the working body of the National Assembly, where he answered a number of questions. "He is faced with serious and very difficult challenges, and I would like to thank him for accepting them. I would also like to thank you for expressing strong support for him at the working body responsible," added Prime Minister Janša.
Prime Minister Janez Janša also participated in the conclusion of an all-day discussion on the candidate for the Minister of Health. According to him, this was a lengthy discussion, which also provided many answers. "I believe, however, that a harsh statement referring to the candidate's work in his current function as head of the Ljubljana University Medical Centre was neither clarified nor denied. It was said that, in the past year, this institution recorded a 30-million loss. I am not familiar with the source of this information provided by the opposition deputies, given that it was stated extremely assertively. The Director of the Ljubljana University Medical Centre says that despite the tough circumstances, the potential loss would be 30 times smaller. I therefore ask you to stop exaggerating these figures," said the Prime Minister.
"In terms of health care investments, let us compare the investments from public funds into Slovenian health care in the last decade and the investments into non-governmental organisations, excluding those operating in the public interest and for humanitarian purposes, but including around 15,000 others, which operate more in their own or their founders' interests. Twice as much resources were invested in such organisations compared to health care. And the situation will not improve in the next ten years if this does not change. You may call it ideology or whatever you want, but, in the end, the numbers are the most telling," said the Prime Minister.
"Our GDP is as it is. It will not magically increase, we will not discover petroleum. The only real development potential lies within ourselves, the people. This is another area lacking investments and decisions about priorities therefore need to be made, and in the last decade, the wrong decisions were made about priorities in health care. They were wrong and that cannot be corrected in one year or one term of office. If you would like me to repeat the numbers from last time, I will be glad to do so," said the Prime Minister.
He added that the key challenge that the new minister will have to face is the ongoing epidemic or pandemic. "This was also discussed at length. It is a fact that we are facing a third wave. There is no doubt that a third wave is coming due to new strands of the virus spreading throughout Europe, including our country. The only question is how strong this wave will be. In fact, there are currently two opposite trends. On the one hand, the number of infected persons requiring hospital treatment is decreasing. Thankfully, the number of deaths has also decreased drastically after vaccinating a high number of care home residents and residents of certain other high-risk institutions. This is, of course, a good trend, but as we have learnt from previous waves, it will not last forever due to the opposite trend of an increasing number of new infections," said Prime Minister Janša.
The Prime Minister also said that, in light of easing the measures in education and childcare, an increase in infections among the younger population has been recorded. "This does not put immediate pressure on the hospitals. However, an increase in infections is now also being recorded among the older population, which has been the most affected by the epidemic, so we should unfortunately be prepared for the trend to reverse in a few weeks. As it is, certain orange regions are becoming red for various reasons and this requires utmost and continuous caution," said Prime Minister Janša. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, new strands of the virus pose a major risk. Such mutations are many and even our experts have recorded mutations specific only to our country. Our neighbouring countries have strands that are extremely dangerous, that are more dangerous than those we have faced before. And we have many weeks or, I am afraid, even months of fighting this epidemic ahead of us, and, as mentioned before, this is the main challenge the new Minister of Health will be facing," said Prime Minister Janša.
Further, he said that towards the end of December, that is after Christmas, vaccination began in Slovenia and throughout the European Union. "The vaccine supplies were estimated to be larger than they proved to be in the following two months. There is also a certain degree of scepticism regarding estimated supplies in the coming months. If we draw a comparison, we can see that since Christmas, that is within approximately two months, Europe has managed to vaccinate just over 4% of the population. If this trend continued in the coming months, the epidemic would last for years. The supplies are coming, yet the estimated vaccine supplies remain more optimistic. Nevertheless, this week, as we prepare for the upcoming European Council meeting, we are dealing with the efficiency of joint European supplies, since apparently some contracts were not signed properly and the vaccines manufactured in Europe are being sold elsewhere even though Europe has invested considerable funds into developing these vaccines and into certain advance payments. Now, this situation must be regulated and we believe that Europe must be capable of providing sufficient vaccines for its entire population by June. If it is not capable of doing so, the bad experience from last year's first wave will reoccur. There is no reason not to invest additional effort and funds into achieving this goal. As we can see from the experience of more successful countries outside the European Union, the vaccination coverage, particularly of the older population, effectively curbs the epidemic and prevents the spread of new strands," said Prime Minister Janša.
"The government will amend the vaccination strategy in the foreseeable future. We will include anyone who has been prescribed obligatory testing for understandable reasons in priority categories. This concerns schools, retail workers, taxi drivers and everyone else who requires obligatory periodical testing due to high risk. This category will also include – this is a reply to a previous discussion – the National Assembly and other parts of the critical infrastructure or rather the management part of the critical infrastructure, in order to be able to determine more precisely when this vaccination will be possible, while not being able to determine it exactly, as it depends on the actual vaccine supplies and not the estimated ones. Unfortunately, the actual and estimated supplies always differ and very rarely in the direction of surplus. Nevertheless, the situation has been clarified enough to allow for easier planning and this is one of the reasons for amending the vaccination strategy. Slovenia and other countries will also be seeking additional options for vaccine supplies. We are putting in a great deal of effort. However, we must prioritise the safety and credibility of and confidence in the vaccine, otherwise the vaccination coverage and procurement will be to no avail," Prime Minister Janša also said in his address.
"In the coming days or within ten days, when the outcome of the European Council meeting on Thursday and Friday will be clear, we will invite all deputy groups to attend the presentation of the efforts and assessments by experts and the government related to the following weeks of fighting the epidemic. I invite you in advance to attend the meeting. Everyone with detailed expert answers to the posed questions will be present and I hope we will be able to present the future vaccination dynamics in more detail," said the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Janez Janša concluded by once again expressing gratitude for showing support for the candidate during the discussion. "We believe that considering his experience and everything he has demonstrated thus far, he will be equal to the task. This is currently one of the most demanding ministries, probably even the most demanding during this epidemic, and the person accepting and seriously tackling such a challenge deserves all our support," concluded Prime Minister Janša.