As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, although many details about the establishment of the new Zabok medical centre, which will be a centre for the treatment of malignant diseases, have yet to be defined, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre’s (UPMC) investment of about 15 million euros in Hrvatsko Zagorje is the first investment of this magnitude by foreign investors in Croatian healthcare.
The announcement about the investment that will be realised in cooperation with the General Hospital Zabok and the St. Catherine Special Hospital (Sv. Katarina), owned by Dragan Primorac, comes at a time when the state seems to have decided to strengthen cooperation between public and private healthcare.
This is further evidenced by the public support that the founders of the future Zabok medical centre received when signing the cooperation agreement from the government representatives, and support for such projects will also be given by the new legal regulations that will direct patients to private institutions in the country instead of urging them to seek treatment abroad, regardless of whether they have contracts with HZZO or not.
However, we have yet to see how many services from the new Zabok medical centre will actually be made available to Croatia’s residents who are HZZO insured individuals. Namely, as confirmed by them, HZZO wasn’t officially contacted regarding the possibility of contracting services with the future Centre for Oncology.
For the American investors, however, this is certainly an investment in health tourism, considering that they will be able to gain the market of Croatia’s entire wider region, as well as the whole of Europe. It is also the largest American healthcare institution that employs 92,000 employees and 5,000 doctors, with a massive annual budget of 23 billion dollars.
There are a total of 40 hospitals within the UPMC chain, and in addition to over the USA, they are currently present in Italy, Ireland, China and Kazakhstan. As they claim from St. Catherine, this large investment will provide Croatian patients with diagnostic and therapeutic services completely equivalent to those in the USA, in accordance with the existing prices set by HZZO.
The new Zabok medical centre will be located on the premises of the Zabok General Hospital, which the hospital has been renting out to the St. Catherine Special Hospital since back in 2008. It spans 2,200 square metres. In addition, two linear accelerators will be built for radiation purposes, the location has already been defined, and permits need to be obtained for this. The plan is to complete the brand new medical centre in a period of about one year.
“This is primarily about a huge step forward in the transfer of the latest knowledge and technologies from the USA, the kind of which we can only dream of. When we talk to Croatian oncologists, they believe that in a few years, with the support of UPMC, Croatia could be at the very top of the EU in terms of oncology services,” Jadranka Primorac, a member of the administrative council of the St. Catherine Special Hospital stated.
She added that this type of therapy and treatment, as well as state-of-the-art diagnostics in cooperation with UPMC, must be available to every Croatian resident. “It is the beginning and the end of everything. If you look at EC strategies, one of the key steps forward is to make this kind of therapy available to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Among other things, this is why we have HZZO,” she explained.
Zabok is apparently now preparing negotiations with the state insurer, HZZO, which so far has not quite fulfilled all the efforts of private institutions to offer their services to the Institute’s policyholders in greater numbers. One of the key obstacles was often the too low price of the services covered by HZZO, and since these are new services that didn’t even exist within the Croatian healthcare system, those prices have yet to be established.
Negotiations with HZZO will certainly be one of the most important steps for future partners. Director of the Zabok General Hospital, Tihomir Vancina, pointed out that there are still a number of operational and technical matters to be resolved, from space to personnel engagement.
“We agreed in principle that we want to build the Zabok medical centre, and now we need to see how to implement it all,” stated Vancina, who believes that everything can be done in the space of one year, especially considering that the investment has been under consideration for four years since the UPMC team was in Zabok for the first time. “This will be a huge step in improving the quality of the treatment on offer.
In the Zabok General Hospital, we have departments where our oncology patients can have part of the procedure, but for the rest they have to go to Zagreb, which will not be necessary in the future. The cancer survival rate in the USA is significantly higher than it is here in Croatia, precisely because of the available therapy that we’re now bringing to the country. For the state, this is an ideal model, because it doesn’t have to invest in space, equipment and personnel, it only has to pay for the services,” concluded Vancina.
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