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Healthcare and Social Protection Agency scrapped in structural revamp

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, September 22
The Minister of Health, Labor and Social Protection Andria (Sandro) Urushadze started structural changes within the Ministry by initiating the abolishment of the Healthcare and Social Protection Agency (HSPA) on September 21. “The Ministry spends around GEL 350 million on the healthcare programs annually. Our aim is to consume this money in a transparent way not be wasted within the “bureaucratic corridors” so that the citizens could see where the Ministry actually spends it. Each GEL which the state spends within the medical field should affect each citizen,” Healthcare Minister told the media.

Stressing that the Government would discuss the issue at the Session, Urushadze stressed that the Agency will have enough time to fulfill its responsibilities defined by the relevant contracts. This very decision, according to the Minister, will both increase the efficiency of the Ministry’s sources and reduce its administrative expenses. “The Agency had been responsible for the state purchases. We think that the control of such purchases should become stricter to avoid the possible corruptive bargains so that the functions of the Agency will be distributed among the other structural units,” the Minister added.

The Head of the HSPA Vakhtang Surguladze had not been initially informed about the upcoming changes. Wondering how the Agency could be simply shut down, Surguladze explained that his Agency had been the only office on which the Chamber of Control had made the most positive report. “Re-organizational projects are an essential part of the Departments but why should the Agency be closed? Is it a market or something?” Surguladze wondered. “The Agency, with 4 500 contracts with different healthcare institutions from the tuberculosis to children’s oncologic programs, can’t be closed in just one day. These whole details have been written in one of the reports of the Chamber of Control which has been grateful to the Agency for saving quite a large amount,” he said adding that some problems are an essential part for working people.

The structural changes within the Healthcare Ministry have been preceded by the detention of the Deputy Minister of Health, Labor and Social Protection Nikoloz (Koka) Pruidze for participating in the scandal of vaccination. The state audit agency probe initiated by the Chamber of Control revealed his involvement in the abuse of office and bribe-taking on September 16. The investigation of the case has not yet been finished. According to the Healthcare Minister it is up to the results of the investigation to define the responsibilities of Surguladze who has now been moved to a reserve position.

“In its probe within the Healthcare Ministry, the state audit agency of the Chamber of Control revealed violations in state purchases carried out by the HSPA. HSPA has been responsible for providing the medical institutions with the relevant medicine and apparatus for people with physical disorders. I don’t think that this has been the main reason for the abolition of the Agency but it might have contributed to the shortcomings within the system,” Kakkhaber Dzimistarishvili from the audit group of the Chamber of Control told The Messenger.