Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili held a working meeting with Zurab Azarashvili, Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs, and his Deputy Ministers.
Plans to be fulfilled and the Ministry’s key priorities in 2023 were discussed at the working meeting. The conversation touched on the implementation dynamic of the Development Strategy-Vision 2030 of Georgia.
The Minister and Deputy Ministers of Internally Displaced Persons from Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs briefed the Prime Minister on changes designed by the Ministry for further betting the situation in various directions.
Measures to be taken by the Ministry toward improving access to quality medications were discussed at the working meeting. The Minister and Deputy Ministers pointed out that referential pricing for medications will come into force on February 15. It was also emphasized that, as a result of the opening of the Turkish pharmaceutical market, the population of Georgia saves about 200 million GEL every year.
Plans for 2023 include:
• Expanding the list of medications regulated by referential pricing (with essential medicines)
• Introduction of direct contact mechanisms with manufacturers (Managed Entry Agreements) in relation to expensive medications
• Ensure the full operability of the Medicine Quality Laboratory
• Enhance the chronic disease medications package (annual limits on medications financing will be finalized in the 1st quarter).
The Minister and Deputy Ministers introduced the Prime Minister to measures planned to be taken toward public healthcare. It was noted that, in 2023, more than 590,000 persons are scheduled to be scanned for hepatitis C, while the full elimination of hepatitis C is expected by 2026.
The conversation at the working meeting revolved around changes planned in the direction of emergency medical services. Plans for 2023 in this direction include:
• Establishment of a separate stroke unit for a specialized crews to respond to relevant calls and arrive at the scene
• Procurement of 70 new standard ambulances; consequently, the vehicle fleet will no longer comprise vehicles older than 5 years
• Construction of service centers in Batumi, Khulo, Keda, Shuakhevi, and Akhalkalaki, also the construction of two new service centers in Tbilisi and the rehabilitation of the Ambrolauri Service Center. The Minister emphasized that 12 emergency medical service centers have been renovated in Tbilisi. The insurance package of emergency medical services employees has been upgraded to envisage a 60-GEL insurance package instead of the previously provided 23-GEL package.
• Work has commenced on linking the dispatching program to the 112 program to allow for separating calls of lower priority and, in such cases, for providing patients only with telephone consultations. According to the plan, this service is expected to reduce emergency calls by 35% and significantly increase the effectiveness of the service.
• Negotiations are underway with the Medical University on the establishment of a bachelor’s degree program for paramedics, which will allow for gradually replacing ambulance doctors with specialized paramedics.
In the direction of the National Health Agency, it is planned to expand the DRG financing system in 2023 to apply to the Universal Health Program in its entirety (childbirth, perinatal, genetic disorders). In addition, a direct method of procurement from manufacturers of medications for oncological and rare diseases will be adopted in 2023.
The Minister and Deputy Ministers reported to the Prime Minister on the process of the rehabilitation and equipping of the Infectious Diseases Hospital. It was also noted that, in 2023, the full rehabilitation of the Republican Hospital and the Kutaisi Clinic will start in 2023. A development plan for a medical holding will be developed, a state children’s oncological service will be streamlined, dialysis services will be available in Khulo, Kvareli, and Tsalenjikha. In 2022, dialysis centers opened in Ambrolauri, Lanchkhuti, Mestia, Tianeti, and Kazbegi.
It is also planned in 2023 to open an additional 50 telemedicine offices under the Rural Doctors Program. Renovation work will commence to apply to almost 100 outpatient clinics across the country.
Changes planned to be carried out in order to fulfill the obligations under the EU Association Agreement were also discussed at the working meeting. It was noted that, in 2022, the Parliament adopted the Law on the Quality and Safety of Human Blood and Its Components. The law’s transition period was set until July 1, 2025, and the establishment and equipping of a central state blood facility must be carried out within this period, also relevant guidelines and standards must be updated, and an active awareness campaign supporting non-remunerated donations must be carried out.
The Minister and Deputy Ministers informed the Prime Minister about the following draft laws prepared by the Ministry, to be referred to the Government for consideration in the 1st quarter of 2023:
• The Law on Human Organ Transplantation
• The Law on Human Tissue and Cell Transplantation
• The Law on the Use of Assisted Reproductive Technology.
It was noted that work is underway on a strategy and action plan for antimicrobial resistance, a global problem requiring high-level political support. Work has also started on the legislative framework for registering and regulating medical equipment/items in line with EU Directives.
Emphasis was placed on draft amendments to the Law on Healthcare which have been referred to the Parliament. These changes envisage the professional recognition of paramedics, public healthcare specialists, and midwives. Based on the legislative amendments, regulatory frameworks for these professions are planned to be developed in 2023.
• An updated strategy for the development of nursing will be approved, and a memorandum will be signed with the EBRD in order to take the steps prescribed by the new strategy.
• Beginning on January 1, 2023, a minimal wage mechanism will come into force under the Universal Healthcare Program, to enforce 7 GEL and 4.4 GEL per hour wages for doctors and nurses, respectively. This mechanism has improved the revenues of almost 9,000 doctors and about 8,300 nurses. It is planned to expand this mechanism in the future to apply to other participants of the process of patient care, such medical personnel as assistant nurses and orderlies.
At the meeting with the Prime Minister, the plans of the Refugee Agency were also discussed. The Minister and Deputy Ministers briefed the Head of Government on the process of providing refugees with living quarters. It was noted that, in 2023, apartment construction will advance to an active phase in five cities, and several problematic sites with refugee residents will be closed this year.
As for the direction of the Social Service Agency, it is planned in 2023 to start rehabilitating thirteen service offices, five of which will be fully rehabilitated in 2023, while the rehabilitation of the rest of the office will be completed in 2024. It is also planned to approve a new methodology for the Targeted Social Program in 2023, following which, in 2024, the new methodology will be used gradually to reinspect socially vulnerable families.
At the working meeting, the operation of the Program for Public Works Employment was also discussed. It was noted that, under the program, more than 30,000 socially vulnerable citizens were employed in 2022. According to the plan, 20,000 socially vulnerable citizens will be employed in 2023.
At the meeting with the Prime Minister, new projects and initiatives were also discussed. Irakli Garibashvili issued new assignments to the Minister and Deputy Ministers of Internally Displaced Persons from Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs.