Health minister steps down as Latvia faces budget reforms

Latvia’s Health Minister Ivars Eglītis has resigned, saying he will not be responsible for what cuts in the government budget will mean to medical care in the country.

Eglītis, a member of the People’s Party (Tautas partija), announced his resignation June 17, a day after the Saeima approved a sweeping LVL 500 million reduction in the national budget. He is the first minister to leave the coalition government headed by Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis.

A significant portion of the cuts—LVL 45 million—is to come from the Ministry of Health and will require changes to health care delivery. The amended national budget now foresees spending LVL 4.6 billion, but taking in just LVL 4 billion. The health ministry’s revised budget anticipates spending LVL 453 million this year.

“Without creating the social protection system for those patients to whom the lack of money already forbids to receive timely and qualitative medical help, further health budget cuts were not acceptable because those are disproportionate to the social responsibility of the sector,” Eglītis said in a statement released by the health ministry. “As (a) doctor and health care specialist I cannot accept that.”

Dombrovskis has accepted Eglītis’ resignation.

“In this crisis situation the minister for health has chosen the easiest way as it is clear that the health care system is facing a process of complicated, urgent and essential reforms,” Dombrovskis said in a prepared statement. “The decision will require political will and determination, and conviction that the end result is adequate for such a health care model which should already have been introduced some years ago. If the minister honestly admits to be unable to manage these reforms, his resignation is sensible and acceptable.”

Dombrovskis also said he is awaiting the People’s Party’s recommendation on who should replace Eglītis.

After a meeting with the prime minister, President Valdis Zatlers told a press briefing that Latvia needs a health minister who is confident in their abilities.

“And this minister must be found as soon as possible,” Zatlers said. “I would even say today, so he could start work tomorrow.”

Ivars Eglītis

Ivars Eglītis

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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