ZAGREB, January 29, 2018 – The Croatian Chamber of Physicians (HLK) and the Croatian Association of Hospital Physicians (HUBOL) on Monday reacted after Health Minister Milan Kujundžić sent Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković a letter asking that court practice be uniformed in cases where physicians are suing for unpaid overtime and that instead of trying to influence the courts, he should be securing funds to settle dues to physicians so that they do not have to go to court.
The HLK said in a press release said that it not only considers Kujundžić’s request to be a “direct and unlawful attempt by state authorities to influence court decisions but that this is a grave breach of the Constitution which proclaims the tripartite democratic division of powers and guarantees the independence of judicial authority.” The HLK considers any attempt of political influence on court proceedings to be unacceptable and Kujundžić’s attempt to influence court proceedings instigated for the purpose of protecting the fundamental rights of personnel in health, is absolutely unacceptable.
“It would be more responsible, useful and appropriate that as the head of the Ministry for which final court rulings have established to be responsible for additional financial liabilities by the state arising toward employees, admits the error made and publicly apologises to employees and to call on the finance ministry to secure funds and come to an agreement on how to settle dues without any further court proceedings,” the HLK said in its letter to the Minister of Health.
HUBOL president Ada Barić advised that the first court rulings have been delivered due to the incorrectly calculated wages which did not include extraordinary working conditions and overtime at the Osijek general hospital in the period from 2013 to 2015.
According to the Osijek hospital, there are currently 75 such cases in which doctors sued the hospital and the hospital has paid 960,000 kuna in damages. Should physicians continue to sue the hospital, damages could reach one billion kuna.
Barić explained that the error occurred in the central system that calculates wages which doesn’t recognise extraordinary working conditions or overtime work, however the financial burden is borne by hospitals even though they do not have any impact in that regard. “I am sorry that a solution was not found through a settlement and for that money to have been paid out in installments, which I believe, physicians would have agreed to,” instead the matter was let go to the point that physicians started suing in the courts, Barić told Hina.
Earlier in the day the MOST opposition party called for the Minister to step down and to apologise to physicians because of his official letter to the Justice Minister. “Minister Kujundžić obviously isn’t aware of how the state functions and the division of government. His official letter to Minister Bošnjaković contains worrying and unacceptable directions on how the courts should be ruling,” the party’s political secretary Nikola Grmoja said.
Grmoja claims that Kujundžić’s letter is scandalous in which he calls on another minister in government to a meeting to continue looking for a solution and how the courts should be uniformed and advises how to deliver decisions that agree with the Health Ministry’s current policies.
The Ministry on Monday rejected the allegation that the letter was putting pressure on the judiciary and claimed that it had only asked for an opinion on the complex problem of implementing the collective agreement concerning the payment of overtime hours in the health sector.
Having in mind the scope of this financial problem for the health system, the Health Ministry has conducted a series of meetings with the Administration Ministry, Ministry of Labour and Pension System, Justice Ministry, the FINA financial agency and hospital administration.
“During those consultations it was concluded that interpretation of financial liabilities, resulting from collective agreements, requires additional interpretation and as such, a letter was sent to the Justice Ministry, seeking an opinion on that complex problem,” the Health Ministry said in a press release.