Croatia's drugs wholesalers cut deliveries to 15 hospitals

FILE PHOTO: Medical staff is seen in Arena Zagreb, as the sports arena is converted to a field hospital for people infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Zagreb, Croatia, November 3, 2020. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic/File Photo

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia’s drugs wholesalers have reduced medicine deliveries to 15 hospitals that have fallen behind in their payments, blaming the government for not giving the health system enough funds.

Croatia plans to run a budget deficit of below 3.0% of gross domestic product this year to remain on the track to join the euro currency in 2023.

However, the economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic and reconstruction after two devastating earthquakes last year, together with the debts of the health sector, are weighing heavily on the government’s budget plans.

“Each day the debts of hospitals and pharmacies towards the drugs wholesalers rise by 20 million kuna and on March 1 surpassed six billion kuna. The government has not responded to our warnings ... the wholesalers are not able to finance the state any more,” a group of drugs wholesalers said on Tuesday.

A government spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The health sector’s record debts of around 6 billion kuna ($950 million) equate to about 4.1% of budgetary revenues planned for this year.

Last month, the wholesalers urged the government to settle at least 2.7 billion kuna of debts owed by hospitals and pharmacies.

“There are hospitals with delays in payments longer than one year. To the hospitals with the longest overdue debts from now on we deliver only as much as they pay us,” said Diana Percac, a representative of the group of wholesalers.

($1 = 6.3099 kuna)

Reporting by Igor Ilic. Editing by Mark Potter