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33 Georgian NGOs unite against social problems

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, April 26
At the Radisson Blue Iveria Hotel on April 25th, 33 Georgian NGO’s working in the field of health and social care combined their efforts by creating the Georgian Platform on Care. The presentation of the platform was attended by members of various NGOs, government ministries and international organizations. Such large-scale unification in the medical and healthcare spheres is unprecedented in Georgia.

The platform was formed by Georgian Harm Reduction Network, Caritas Georgia, Georgian Mental Health Coalition and Coalition Homecare in Georgia and others which in total comprise 33 NGOs. The platform is open to new members as well.

According to representatives of Georgian Platform on Care, its main aim is to encourage all relevant actors to cooperate and create a jointly developed policy that will prioritize a "human rights based care" approach. As part of this Georgian Platform on Care aims to promote the organization and development of care services; provide additional funding for developing care services as well as providing vocational training for professionals working in the health and social work sector.

Georgina Platform representative Ucha Vakhania emphasized that the Georgian healthcare and social system is poor and NGO's should play a mediator role in the process.

"There are two categories of actors involved - those who need health and social support and those government structures that should ensure that need. The NGOs united under this platform and some others as well will assist the former in formulating demands and will help the latter in knowing how to fulfill them. For years international donor organizations have assisted people in need of healthcare and social welfare needs." Vakhania said.

“However, how long will foreign donors assist us? It is time for the Georgian government to take responsibility and care about its people.” Vakhania added.

Representatives of the Georgian Platform on Care shifted attention to two major issues. The first is the establishment of a proper Georgian healthcare system and the second is the securement of foreign loans that Georgia can use for healthcare system development.

Vakhania stressed that there is no care system in Georgia, but rather treatment that unites treatment and care procedures.

“That is why the Georgian healthcare system is of comparably low quality and too expensive. One can be sent home after being in hospital and be able to get care at home, such as post treatment rehabilitation, medical mobile services and so on. That is more effective and requires less money." Vakhania suggested.

He also stated that Georgia owes large debts to Germany. According to Vakhania there is an international practice when a country “forgives” the debts owed to it by another country and the money is sent to the "forgiven" country’s healthcare budget.

“We have a concrete project and plan concerning this issue, we are also carrying out negotiations about this issue and hope that the government will show interest in the process."Vakhania stated.

Public Defender of Georgia Ucha Nanuashvili stated that compared to last year's budget, the 2013 budget is more socially oriented. "The Public Defender’s Office will do its best to make 2014's budget even more socially oriented. I am also planning to make special reports concerning social-healthcare issues and present them to the country's leadership...the situation in Georgia is quite poor." Nanuashvili said.

Amiram Gamkrelidze, Head of the National Centre of Disease Control and Public health, welcomed the formation of such a large- scale platform and stressed that during Eduard Shevardnadze's presidency a scheme concerning dept swap was actively discussed. During that period an international decision was made about forgiving 16 countries' debts and unfortunately Georgia was not among those chosen.

"Raising the issue again and promoting the idea is very important." Gamkrelidze said.

Representative of the Healthcare Ministry Amiran Dateshidze stated that the process of swapping debt is long and complicated but expressed readiness to collaborate with the Georgian Platform on Care about this and other issues.