Photo: MTI

Protecting jobs and families and supporting businesses remained a priority for the government, PMO chief says

GP wages to conform to new pay scale

The government aims to guarantee that from next January general practitioners cannot be paid less than what is specified in the new pay scale for doctors approved by parliament this week, the head of the Prime Minister's Office said.

The details of the rules on how doctors are paid are still being finalised and consultations are ongoing between the government and the Hungarian Chamber of Doctors (MOK), Gergely Gulyas told a regular press conference.

Gulyas said the wage hike passed by lawmakers on Tuesday marked the start of a “new era” for doctors, adding that some doctors would see a 125 percent wage increase next January.

A resident doctor in practice for three years who has not yet completed graduate training will earn a monthly gross wage of 613,000 (EUR 1,700) while a doctor in practice for 40 years or more will earn close to 1.7 million forints, he said.

From January 2022, the pay scale will range from 788,000 forints to 2.1 million and from January 2023 doctors will make between 875,000 forints and 2.4 million forints, Gulyas said.

He added that under the law, doctors will be able to earn a maximum of 20 percent more than what is specified in the pay scale. Gulyas said the wage hike would also allow for a phasing out of gratuities. He added that clarity around wages in the sector could also persuade doctors who had left the country to work abroad to return to Hungary.

He said there were no unresolved issues between the government and the doctors’ chamber which they would not be able to settle in the future.

He said that under the new pay scale doctors working 4, 6, or 8-hour shifts would still have the opportunity to work in private practices if they reach an agreement with their hospital.

The government aims to approve every resolution regarding the details of the wage hikes by November, he said, noting that it would work closely with the Chamber of Doctors.

Concerning wage hikes for general practitioners, Gulyas said doctors whose wages do not reach a certain sum would receive wage supplements.

He also noted that nurses would receive a 72 percent wage hike by 2022.

Concerning the government’s protective measures against the coronavirus epidemic, Gulyas said there were 36 hospitals treating Covid-19 patients in the country and less than 1 percent of health-care workers have had to be transferred there from other institutions.

He said Hungary was among the countries that had been more effective in combatting the virus. The number of fatalities in central Europe is significantly lower than in western Europe, he said, adding that the death toll in Hungary was around the central European average, with 90 deaths per one million people.

Gulyas urged the public to observe the official coronavirus guidelines, saying it was the only way to curb the spread of the virus.

Hungary’s economic protection scheme has been among the most successful in terms of the job market, with the unemployment rate showing a much better trajectory than in the European Union, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Gergely Gulyas said that protecting jobs and families and supporting businesses remained a priority for the government. Recently, the government has contributed to the protection or creation of 1.4 million jobs, he added. Partly thanks to these efforts, more than 4.5 million people hold jobs in Hungary, which is just shy of the all-time record employment rate, he said.

The average unemployment rate in the EU is 7 percent, as against 3.9 percent in Hungary, he said.

Regarding the loan repayment moratorium introduced as an economic protection measure during the coronavirus epidemic, Gulyas said the government would soon submit a proposal on prolonging the moratorium to parliament. The moratorium will be extended for families raising children, pensioners, fostered workers and companies which lost over 25 percent of their revenues, he said.

As regards the government’s defence measures against the epidemic, Gulyas said in answer to a question that the decree ordering casinos to close at 11pm is scheduled to be passed this week.

Regarding the government’s latest “National Consultation” survey, Gulyas said the requirement to wear face masks had the largest public support among defence measures, with 83 percent of respondents backing the regulation. Fully 79 percent support cutting back public events and closing the borders, while 78 percent is in favour of social distancing, 64 percent of curbing the export of equipment, 62 percent supports shopping times maintained for the elderly, and 59 percent the introduction of curfews, Gulyas said.

Answering a question on Budapest’s University of Theatre and Film Arts, Gulyas said the government would provide funding for the institution. “The rest is not under our purview,” he said, referring to a stalemate between students blocking two university buildings and its new leadership.

On a decision of the European Parliament regarding funding regulations, Gulyas said Hungary had “insisted” that laws sanctioning those using EU funds irregularly should be passed this year. At the same time, tying resources to rule of law conditions opens the gates to blackmailing right-wing governments, he said.

Regarding a ruling by the European Court of Justice earlier this week, which said the Hungarian higher education law tightening regulations of foreign universities operating in Hungary ran afoul of the principles of free establishment and free movement of services, Gulyas said the government was “studying” the ruling and will amend regulations accordingly. The government may also request that the ECJ clarify the ruling, he said.

Commenting on American financier George Soros’s proposal that the EU should initiate a test case against Hungary, Gulyas said “test cases are unknown to European law”.

On the topic of local elections in Tiszaujvaros, in northeast Hungary, Gulyas called it “scandalous” that “the entire opposition, including [Budapest] Mayor Gergely Karacsony, is supporting a candidate known to have made anti-Semitic remarks.”

The opposition’s “meagre credibility” has been completely “annihilated” by supporting Laszlo Biro, he said.

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