Latvian workers protesting against continued dismantling of health care and social services

Patrick Itschert, ETUC Deputy Secretary General
(Brussels, 21 August 2013) Riga, 18 June 2013

In Latvia the European Social Model – that i.a. guarantees all EU citizens to have access to a set of basic human and fundamental rights, including health care, as set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, Art. 35 – is under considerable pressure and actually at stake for an increasing part of the population in their role as patients, also having very negative effects on the health workers. This is no new situation, it is known to Latvian citizens and health workers since 2009 when the financial and economic crises set in, and things have not substantially improved ever since, to the contrary, and this also as a consequence of budgetary surveillance programmes designed and policy reforms proposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In the sector of health and social care this framework strongly affects the health and well-being of both workers and patients.

Latvian EPSU affiliate LVSADA, the Trade Union of Health and Social Care of Latvia, used the occasion of the visit of ETUC’s Deputy Secretary General Patrick Itschert to Riga in the context of the ETUC “Tour of EU Capitals” to organise on 18 June 2013 – together with other trade unions member of the Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia (LBAS) – a well-visited demonstration in front of the Office of Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis. Colleagues cried out their indignation about the situation in the Latvian health system and the treatment of Latvian health workers and patients, calling for immediate and comprehensive improvements. Mr. Itschert and a delegation of LBAS were later received by the Latvian Prime Minister for a one hour meeting.

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Read more about Patrick Itschert’s visit to and meetings in Riga.

Here are more photos of the demonstration by Latvian trade unions, focusing on colleagues of LVSADA.

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EPSU has recalled the very difficult situation for Latvian health workers, patients and providers due to budget cuts, a deterioration of working conditions, the emigration of qualified workers that lead to partially heavy restrictions as to the access to affordable and universally provided health care services. The Public Health Guidelines of the Latvian Government for 2011–2017, too, identify problems such as a high level of direct patient payments for healthcare services, which significantly affects the accessibility of healthcare, insufficient state support to the healthcare system, large and unequal household expenses on purchase of medicines, insufficient work quality criteria of primary and secondary healthcare service providers, which fail to ensure an efficient and safe treatment process and long-term improvement of indicators of public health.

At several occasions since early 2011 EPSU, together with LVSADA, has brought the difficulties of the Latvian health system to the attention of European institutions. In July a letter has been sent to MEPs of the EMPL and ENVI Committees asking for a meeting in autumn to look into possible immediate or mid-term-oriented steps the European Parliament could undertake to help alleviate and eventually overcome the difficult situation for the health care workers, the patients and the health care providers in Latvia.

Read EPSU’s letter to MEPs of the EMPL and ENVI Committees (12 July 2013)

Read more on the “story so far".

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