The people of Croatia have gotten used to each new health minister coming up with their own, personal version of health system reforms, while the system seems to be getting worse all the time. The new minister took surprisingly long to present his plan, which is understandable when we know the circumstances under which he took over the department.
Today, he made his plans for the reform public. The changes will be enacted through the changes of the basic laws that cover the area of health, which will happen in early November.
One of the goals of the reform is strengthening primary health care, which is currently not doing what it should be. It’s not the doctors’ fault, but it has to change. Primary health care must become the strongest tool in our fight against disease, Beroš pointed out. The goal must be to detect diseases early, so turning to prevention is a necessity, as well as the development of health literacy from an early age. Preventive systematic exams will be established, to help detect diseases as soon as possible. The pilot project will first be implemented in two counties at the beginning of 2023, and it is later expected to be rolled out at the national level.
The number of specializations in primary health care will increase, which will help overcome the shortage of doctors. Specialist health care is transferred to the primary level, in health centers. Specialists from hospitals will also work in health centers, for which they will be paid additionally. In order to solve this, additional work contracts will be concluded with the specialists, Beroš pointed out.
Among other plans, Beroš announced that the national preventive programs for malignant diseases will be revised, a preventive program for the early detection of melanoma will be introduced, and an emergency helicopter service should be established by 2024. He also gave details of the changes to the hospital system. There are too many hospitals per population in Croatia, he said, adding that it is important to introduce the categorization of health institutions and functionally integrate them. The Minister also highlighted the strategic infrastructure projects, among which the revitalization of the Institute of Immunology at a new location in Rugvica and the National Children’s Hospital in Blato.
Krunoslav Capak, the director of the Croatian Public Health Institute, stressed that the emphasis of this health system reform is on the transition to prevention. Croatia has not made enough investments in prevention and now we have to treat the consequences of diseases, which costs a lot and burdens the health system, he said and added that most of these diseases could have been prevented by informing the public about health and by changing habits.
The health system reform is expected to last until 2030, in three phases.