Too early for PM to meet protesting medics: health min

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, will not meet protesting healthcare workers on Tuesday and Thursday, when meetings between the healthcare workers and the government are due to take place, because “it is not yet the moment” for him to get involved, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said.

“As for now, I'm conducting the dialogue and have all the authority as a constitutional minister to carry on the dialogue with social groups working in the healthcare sector,” Niedzielski added.

The minister has invited the protestors to talks on Tuesday based on calculations of just how much money their demands could involve, and also suggested another meeting on Thursday but this time with all healthcare unions, including those that have not joined the protest.

But the Protest Committee, the organiser of the demonstration, wrote in an official letter to Niedzielski on Monday that they will not attend the Tuesday meeting, if the prime minister fails to show up.

“Solving the problem should be the essence and the goal instead of looking for a reason not to conduct the dialogue,” the head of the Health Ministry said. He also attacked the protesters' demands describing them as “unrealistic” and “an attempt to exert political pressure”.

According to the Minister, meeting all the demands would cost the state for the rest of the year PLN 26.05 billion (EUR 5.74 billion), and PLN 104.7 billion (EUR 23.07 billion) next year.

In another development on Monday, the Protest Committee sent a letter to President Andrzej Duda asking him to take decisive action to rescue the Polish healthcare system.

“A personal meeting between the President and representatives of the Committee is necessary owing to the scale of the current problems in the healthcare system,” the medics wrote.

On Saturday, healthcare workers marched through the streets of Warsaw demanding higher wages and better working conditions as the country braces itself for a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some protesters set up tents near the Prime Minister's Office in central Warsaw, where the protesters will stay 24 hours a day.

The government plans to gradually increase the country's healthcare spending to 7 percent of GDP from the current level of some 4.5 percent, but the process may take years and it has not yet started as it depends on the introduction of a large-scale economic programme, the Polish New Deal, which has not been passed by parliament yet.