Solidarity – ensuring that everyone has access to high quality healthcare – is the guiding principle of Bulgaria’s healthcare system. The Ministry of Health is “not trying to change the system but rather to improve it,” according to Dr. Stefan Konstantinov, Minister of Health. He adds, “We want the people of Bulgaria to be confident that the funds they contribute to the healthcare system will bring them benefits.”
The Ministry of Health is currently working to provide better healthcare services for the country’s elderly residents and also to provide more rapid access to specialist physicians. “We have a system whereby general practitioners serve as the ‘gatekeepers’ in the system; patients must see a general practitioner before being referred to a specialist. We are instituting a stimulus system to ensure faster service,” Minister Konstantinov says.
Bulgaria’s public healthcare system is financed by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and the Ministry of Health. As of 2010, 352 public hospitals throughout the country were affiliated with the NHIF, but while some of these hospitals (such as a specialised cardiology hospital) are thriving, others are not. To achieve better balance, the Ministry of Health aims to eliminate duplicated services. Dr. Stefan Konstantinov explains, “Some hospitals offer a variety of services, including services which are also provided by specialised hospitals. The state does not need to fund both.”
Opportunities for foreign investors and suppliers
While a healthcare system cannot be changed overnight, the Ministry of Health is steadily making progress in upgrading facilities, technologies and services in Bulgaria’s hospitals. For example, Bulgaria has already implemented the cutting edge Da Vinci robotic surgery system. Dr. Stefan Konstantinov says that the ministry has earmarked €147 million for upgrading oncology equipment in Bulgaria’s hospitals and is currently looking for suppliers in the EU. The ministry also welcomes EU partnerships concerning e-health services.
Dr. Stefan Konstantinov points out that Bulgaria still needs to implement EU funds for healthcare development and that this process is creating new investment opportunities. The Ministry of Health welcomes more private investment in the healthcare sector, particularly as it works to attract more patients, including health tourists, from outside Bulgaria. Minister Konstantinov says, “We already have too many hospitals and do not need new ones; we need to modernise the existing ones and make them more transparent. The Ministry of Health is open to forming public private partnerships for healthcare projects.”