Appeal of Latvian Trade Union of Health and Social Care Employees with regard to the Latvian EU Council Presidency

Riga/Brussels, 20 November 2012

The Latvian Trade Union of Health and Social Care Employees (LVSADA), together with six other trade unions, professional associations and employers from the sector of health and social services, in a resolution sent on 20 November 2012 to European Parliament and the Council of the European Union challenging the role of Latvia as EU Council President country in the first half of 2015 should the current government policy be continued. They state that they would wish the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament to share their assessment and view that Latvia - under the current conditions and with the measures put in place for years - is not fit to assume its upcoming EU Council Presidency as it has been "unable, for years, to find the political will to put in order the matter of appropriate healthcare funding". Access to healthcare has been restricted with dramatic consequences on mortality and disability (with both rates going up), timely appropriate treatment, availability of affordable medicines and the quality of healthcare, to the detriment of the patients, public health and the health care system. The signatories underline that "Latvia as an EU Member State has an obligation to ensure safe, high-quality, efficient and quantitatively-sufficient healthcare within its territory."

The seven signatories claim that Latvia - given the poor track record of government policy and its attack on public services, not least due to the disastrous cuts operated in health budgets since 2008 and the tightening of entitlement conditions to health care servces - could not serve as a good example in the function of a promotor and defender of core values of the EU, in particular in view of respecting human rights and human dignity. They also critise the lack of support and focus of related measures of European institutions and claim that they live up to only an insufficient manner to the political aim set out in Article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that states (in Paragraph 1) that "a high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Union policies and activities". The seven Latvian health sector organisation call upon the Council and Parliament to bring up the matter of obtaining funding for healthcare corresponding to a good international practice in discussions with the government of the Republic of Latvia.

The resolution has been signed by the following organisations and was sent to the European institutions following a vote in the Latvian Parliament on the national budget for 2013 that again confirmed the policies put into place since Latvia has been affected by the crisis.
- Trade Union of Health and Social Care Employees of Latvia (LVSADA)
- Latvian Medical Association (LAB)
- Latvian Nurses Association (LMA)
- Latvian Midwives Assocation (LVA)
- Nursing and Healthcare Personnel Trade Union (LAADA)
- Latvian Umbrella Body for Disability Organisations SUSTENTO (SUSTENTO)
- Latvian Hospital Association (LSB)

EPSU urges the Latvian government to change its policies in order to allow health workers and health employers to address the huge problems sketched out in the letter and to allow all relevant stakeholders to tackle the insufficiencies of the current health system with the aim of an improvement of the quality of services and a strengthening of the Latvian health care system.

Read the appeal

Latvian EPSU member LVSADA in 2010 had sent a complaint to the European Ombudsman to protest against what LVSADA identified as non-conformity of the Latvian government policy with stipulations of the European Charter of Fundamental Right, in particular Article 35 "Health Care". Being part of Chapter IV "Solidarity" it reads: "Everyone has the right of access to preventive health care and the right to benefit from medical treatment under the conditions established by national laws and practices. A high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Union policies and activities."

The European Ombudsman had accepted the complaint and had carried out an investigation, after which he decided in March 2012 that there is no basis for further investigation of the complaint. From the decision of the Ombudsman it becomes clear that he sees the point of the complaint. The Ombudsman explained that in his view the problems described by LVSADA are primarily connected with the fact that - based on EU law and several EU regulations that determine the right to receive healthcare - the Commission’s actions in regard to the state of the healthcare system in Latvia should be more active. However, the complaint would fall outside his competence that is to assess administrative mistakes or omissions in the work of Union institutions, not to evaluate and judge on the way or appropriateness of the exercise of political powers by a European Union institution.

Valdis Keris, Chairperson of LVSADA, on 1 March 2011 had received the SOLIDAR Silver Rose Award.

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