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Health and Education in the spotlight at Ministers' week

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, March 28
On March 25 Minister of Health, Labour and Social Affairs (MOH) Andria Urishadze spoke of the situation within the healthcare system in the frames of the Ministers’ Week in Parliament of Georgia. The Minister discussed the reforms in the healthcare sector including the state insurance programs, hospital reconstruction and social allowances for people. Sharing the further goals of the Ministry, Urushadze emphasized that the social programs for citizens older than 60 and children have all been maintained.

Welcoming popularization of medical insurance provision with the relevant medical services, the Minister emphasized that over GEL 130 million is spent annually for this purpose. As Minister Urushadze told the MPs prices on medicine has decreased in Georgia due to relevant competitive environment in our country. “The 30-40% sales at various pharmacies are not actually advertising campaigns but results of increasing competitiveness,” he said confident in quality of imported medicine. Opposing to the idea of establishing limited prices on medical products Urushadze worried that this step might encourage development of illegal markets with smuggled medicines.

Magda Anikashvili from Christian-Democratic Parliamentary faction told the Minister that “the healthcare services are only affordable for 30% of Georgian population while the rest of them can’t use the “state privileges”. CDM wondered whether the Government would consider the inflation problems by increasing the criteria especially for supporting the socially unprotected people. Leader of CDM Giorgi Targamadze also worried that people from the social programs have to wait for 5-6 months to get insurance, but the Minister promised that all the drawbacks would be solved gradually.

Stressing that no drawbacks will remain unsolved at the Healthcare system the Minister pointed out that the newly established Mediation Service responsible is actively engaged in dealing with the problems between the citizens and the medical companies as well as the clinics and insurance agencies throughout the country. The minister also hailed the Governmental program of 100 New Hospitals, adding one billion dollar was designated for the infrastructural accommodation of medical institutions. The program of 100 new hospitals became the subject of opposition’s criticism at the session.

The Minster of Education and Science Dimitri Shashkin also delivered an address about the educational reforms on Friday. Attestation Exams for school leavers, the school safety programs and the efficiency of resource officers were all discussed by Shashkin as the positive innovations for the system. Giving examples of violence among school children in past, the Minister emphasized how the school safety has increased after the resource officers’ appointment. “Why have I recruited resource officers? Visit any school and talk to parents… Resource officers neither punish not encourage anyone. While exaggeration of their responsibilities will be my personal tragedy,” said the Minister. Approving of the recourse officers’ “generosity” towards the pupils Targamadze disapproved their engagement in the educational process. “It’s terrible when schools look like jungles, but schools shouldn’t be like prisons,” he stated.

The Minister explained that the attestation exams would have no affect on school re-branding. “It means that none of the schools will be free from the school leaving exams. The only difference will be that schools with the highest ate will hold attestations with the state acknowledgement, without the engagement of the National Examination Centre,” he explained to MPs. Stressing that each pupil should know the elementary rules of chemistry or physics as well as identify the historical events and figures the Minister said that the school leaving exams will be modest in 2011, while the trend will change in future.

Introducing the MPs to future goals of the Ministry, Shashkin stated that no books will cost more than GEL 10 in future. “No one should try to profit from children…” he said stressing that all the teachers will get books for free. Emphasizing the importance of teachers’ certification exams, Shashkin said this would encourage the young professionals to improve their backgrounds. GEL 600 and 1000 would be provided according to qualification of teachers thus encourage the profession.

Economical analyst Demur Giorkhelidze found the Ministers’ addresses interesting but hoped to hear more debate around the issues. “Unfortunately we haven’t seen any political changes from their speeches; we could see Majority MPs protecting the Ministers and opposition minority – expressing occasional admiration from the Governmental activities,” said the analyst in an interview with Interpressnews. Worrying that several important questions have remained unanswered Giorkhelidze stated that “the one-team Parliament doesn’t mean that the legislative body is balanced.” Wondering why the Government needs to prove that everything is all right in the country the analyst said he hoped that the Majority MPs would at least start talking of the problems at each Ministry openly. “But they seem to have forgotten that the Parliament should control the Government, which is responsible on the state expenses,” he stated.