October 12, 2018 / 11:59 AM / a month ago

Croatia health minister survives no-confidence vote in row over waste

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia’s Health Minister survived a no-confidence vote in parliament on Friday, defeating critics who blame the government for growing costs and waiting lists in a sector the IMF says needs more curbs on spending.

Four opposition parties accuse the minister, Milan Kujundzic, of failing to tackle long waiting lists and a problem of medical staff leaving for better working conditions and higher salaries in other European Union countries.

In the 151-seat parliament, only 53 deputies out of the 130 present during the vote supported Kujundzic’s removal.

“This is an attempt to politically discredit the minister,” Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic had told parliament on Thursday ahead of an eight-hour debate on the opposition demand.

“Demands for his resignation are unfounded. Kujundzic is seeking to solve the problems accumulated in the health sector over years.”

Croatia’s health sector, together with pension system costs, present the biggest burden on state coffers.

The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and many analysts have warned Croatia for years that its health system is not sustainable without strong improvement in spending control and reduction of some capacities, including merging of hospitals in some areas.

The ruling conservative-liberal coalition, which has a tiny parliamentary majority of 77 deputies, has now seen six unsuccessful no-confidence motions against ministers and the government as a whole.

Reporting by Igor Ilic, Editing by William Maclean

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