The refusal of private hospitals to allow entry to National Social Security Fund patients looked set to continue indefinitely Thursday as the NSSF board of directors failed to reach an agreement.
While all members agreed in principle to pass the Cabinet’s recommendation to increase the daily rate for one patient from LL30,000 to LL90,000, according to the head of the private hospital owners association, Suleiman Haroun, the business owners left the meeting after refusing to raise the proportion of an employee’s salary they pay into the fund.
After the business owners, representing 10 of the 36 board members, left, the quorum was lost and the meeting had to be canceled, Haroun added.
“What’s going to happen is very dangerous,” Haroun told The Daily Star, but he added: “I don’t think anyone can blame the hospitals anymore. This LL90,000 proposal was recommended by the Cabinet, and the NSSF is not implementing it.”
The one-week strike by private hospitals in late March, which Haroun labeled a “warning,” was ignored by the NSSF, he said.
“Since then the board has met three or four times and not once has this issue been on their agenda. This was very irresponsible,” he added.
While the LL90,000 daily rate was still not sufficient, Haroun said, “it is better than the LL30,000 which has been in place for 15 years.”
The refusal of private hospitals to now admit NSSF patients was not a “strike,” he added.
“Hospitals cannot go on with prices which date from 1995. This is not a strike; it’s simply that hospitals are incapable of going on like this. They ruined us, they broke us.”
The hospitals association has one representative on the board, who will “vote for any proposition which will ensure more money” for private hospitals, Haroun said.
Private hospitals will continue to treat patients receiving dialysis treatment and chemotherapy until they find public alternatives, and will stabilize emergency patients, Haroun added.
He added that he was not confident a solution would be found soon, and as this was an “emergency situation,” it was necessary for the “government to intervene in some way” to ensure the NSSF agrees to up the tariff.
The NSSF warned that the new rates requested by the Cabinet and the private hospitals would cause the already big financial deficit to widen even further.
NSSF officials stress that they don’t have the financial resources to pay the private hospitals the new rates.
It estimated that the fund must come up with an additional LL145 billion to cover the new rates.
Earlier, a key NSSF official told The Daily Star that the government has one of two options to meet the demand: either raise the subscription fees, which is totally rejected by the private sector, or ask the Cabinet to make an advance payment.
The government, however, is not too keen to cover the amount as this would add more burden on the treasury.
There is growing concern that the standoff between the NSSF and hospitals will persist for a long time due to the lack of political will to end the crisis.