Bulgaria Latest Bonus Scandal Backfires on Cancer Sufferers

Society » HEALTH | February 20, 2012, Monday // 09:41
Bulgaria: Bulgaria Latest Bonus Scandal Backfires on Cancer Sufferers The director of Bulgaria's National Health Insurance Fund, Neli Nesheva, resigned on February 17 in the wake of a scandal about bonuses paid to NHIF employees. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency

The resignation of Bulgaria's National Health Insurance Fund director, who quit last week after getting involved in a bonus scandal, has triggered delays in the supply of drugs, used in the basic treatment of cancer cases.

"Cancer patients may be left without medication in the coming weeks because the health insurance fund still has not given to the hospitals in the country the codes necessary for the prescription of cancer medicines," Dr. Antoaneta Tomova, head of the chemotherapy ward in Plovdiv cancer hospital, alarmed.

As of the beginning of the year it is the health fund and not the health ministry that has been in charge of cancer drugs supply, a move, officially taken to ease patients access to medication.

The resignation of the fund head Neli Nesheva only exacerbates the situation, doctors fear.

The embattled director of Bulgaria's National Health Insurance Fund, Neli Nesheva, who got involved in a bonus scandal on Wednesday, filed her resignation on Friday.

She admitted to receiving over BGN 12 000 of bonuses last year and - though claiming the money was well deserved - quit office under public and opposition pressure.

Unofficial information however says that Nesheva was forced to resign because of her opposition to Sopharma, controlled by Ognyan Donev, who until a year ago was a member of the supervisory board of the National Health Insurance Fund. He has managed to supply more than 70% of the medicines required by (state) hospitals and more than 50% of prescribed medicines.

Donev allegedly set things up in such a way as to monopolize the Bulgarian pharmaceutical market with his company while he was a member of the supervising medicines authority, the National Health Insurance Fund.

Nesheva reportedly refused to sign contracts with Sopharma, which supplies medicines at much higher prices, and the bonus scandal was just a set up to force her quit.

Bulgarian cancer sufferers and their families often feel abandoned in their struggle to come to terms with the illness, both in terms of treatment and emotional support.

Unlike other European countries, whose health care systems do their best to fund extra services to support these people and their relatives through the darkest of times, those who have been diagnosed with cancer in Bulgaria face a chronic shortage of life-saving medicines.

Not to mention the lack of support they need to cope with the emotional turmoil of the illness.

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Tags: bonuses, Ognyan Donev, Sopharma, cancer, patients, Neli Nesheva, National Health Insurance Fund
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