Address by Prime Minister Edi Rama at ground-breaking ceremony for construction of the new maternity hospital in Tirana, a project designed to preserve and restore the landmark maternity hospital building and expand hospital’s capacity by construction of new additional facility, architectonically in harmony with the old iconic building and technology in line with European standards:
This maternity hospital, whose construction kicked off in 1938 and completed in 1942, an impressive deadline back then, has not only vital values due the services it delivers, but also important historic values. However, just like it is the case with many other buildings constructed back then, the structure of this maternity hospital facility went through two powerful earthquakes in September and November 2019, and a part of the building actually became impracticable. This accelerated the new maternity hospital project, which was in the process, as more space for the service is dramatically needed here. Just like it was the case with all the buildings or the worst-hit areas, where the earthquake plunged many families, services and the communities into crisis, we took advantage of the crisis to emerge much stronger from that. Indeed, we have launched this construction project to double the hospital’s bed capacity, increase number of rooms and provide a space with more quality conditions for the whole team of doctors, nurses and health workers here.
Not only the maternity hospital’s capacities will triple, but the facility will also house Albania’s first prematurity centre as a novelty in the wide range of the care services for newborn babies and mothers and the quality of health care services in general.
The new project’s elements are the outcome of an in-depth and detailed analysis and expansion of the existing building, but also considerable enhancement of the technology installed in this hospital go hand in hand. Just like this project and all other reconstruction projects on health sector run in tandem with the indispensability to reconstruct health system to its complete transformation in the sense of motivating health personnel, recognizing and rewarding their hard work and quality service they deliver to patients and the system’s enhanced effectiveness in terms of a more reasonable management of the financial sources.
Health system today is at the forefront of the entire transformation process. Health system reform is somehow a large construction site that includes so many other smaller projects. Our target is to deliver on the hospital autonomy, not as an end in itself, but as a tool to boost capacities in all aspects, has already entered an advanced process. The goal is also to create an uninfected communication and interaction space among the health personnel, patients and their families.
Frankly speaking, I was impressed at how a doctors’ gathering few days ago demanded for the bribery be legalized. It was really impressive in terms of the courage and shamelessness in this proposal. The doctors and nurses’ salaries should definitely increase further and we will do so, as we already did in the previous years. This is not an electoral pledge, since the elections have just completed, but it is a planned commitment and promise we will deliver on and we will increase the health personnel salary by around 40%. However, this is not all, because with the hospital autonomy in place, we are seeking to take the concept on doctor’s reward to a whole new level, by setting of course a price floor, but also by providing the opportunity that doctors are not rewarded equally based on that price floor, but receive bonus based on the volume of work and quality of care service they provide individually.
This is the essence vis-à-vis what the hospital autonomy is expected to yield in the household income of doctors, but saying time has come for the bribery to be legalized is really a significant message clearing indicating the necessity that whole anti-corruption drive throughout entire health system, which is already being felt, further and deeper expands. There is absolutely no way that all doctors are equally identified with the perception that they are all the same and they all put hands in the patients’ pocket and their family members. The truth is that it could be in no way like that. The trees are not all the same, the flowers are not the same, the animals are not the same and people are not the same too. So, in my view, distinguishing among the majority of doctors and healthcare workers, who really honour our health system and are there to confirm the facts relating to as many as interactions possible to serve patients and the more results are achieved by making available all their know-how and hard work makes it absolutely a must for certain doctors and nurses, who shock the public opinion when all of a sudden are revealed as bloodsuckers, literally, be chased and prosecuted by the power of law. To this end, we have embarked on a process designed to build an entire anti-corruption network to put whole public system, and not only health system, under double pressure, as a significant part of everything we are delivering on would lose their value, should we keep feeding parasites and predators, who are meant to be there and serve the state and people.
This is the reason why in public hospitals too, we have recently started to employ, just like in any other institution tasked with delivering direct service to the public, a network of individuals, who would be there precisely to distinguish and contribute to creating a culture of accountability. There could be no fight against corruption, should this fight is not conducted within the state itself, or within every institution and the systems of the executive power, where public funds are managed, where salaries are paid through the taxpayers’ money and where people receive public services. There could be no fight against the evil, if the latter stands between the executive power, which holds one barricade, and those outside this executive, at all levels, be them part of the crime world, or part of the group of individuals who have abused with office.
This fight should take place internally, primarily with yourselves, and it is in this way the income will grow, trust and solidarity will increase, dignity and respect will be enhanced and those who do their job take the deserved place in the eyes of the public opinion. It is in this way only, Albania will manage to reach the height it has been hampered to reach over the years and, in this way alone, the state will become the ally and the essential and loyal companion of the citizens. On the contrary, it would be difficult, extremely difficult.
Of course, this is also very difficult, but not impossible. Luckily enough, what is happening recently represent the initial signals of a change that will keep deepening and a move that will keep becoming increasingly more inclusive at any level. The state can’t be a “rifugium peccatorum” (Refuge of Sinners) for sinners and predators at the expense of the citizens, who keep the state on its feet by paying taxes and their contributions. In no system within the overall state system is possible for one to commit sin with the patients’ blood, the people’s tears, the citizens’ hard work and suffering. These are sins go beyond individual cases and often become a sort of deadly malign cancers to the whole society.
I am confident that not only we are on the right path, but along the path of our effort to take the country’s health system to a whole new level, we can afford aiming to turn Albania’s health care system into a regional point of reference within this decade. This is totally possible as our system’s includes extraordinary doctors and a nursing personnel that really deserve respect. Both these basic components cannot be subdued by a segment within them, which runs counter the course of history. We can do this because we have a very clear vision and in fact, for the sake of truth, we have a leadership that we have never had at the top of our work in the health system. The leadership of the Health Minister, the leadership of very passionate and ambitious health officials in many parts of the system. This is a fact. Just like we need to fill the void in many parts of the entire system by employing the right people to serve.
On the other hand, we now have the opportunity to enter a new phase by taking advantage of the previously inexistent or neglected synergies with partners, who are ready to assist us and forge partnership with us and not simply provide assistance as outsiders. Both private and state partners so that we can maximally enhance the system’s capacity and not leave the health personnel bear the whole burden to deal with everything beyond their mission and capacities. By this I mean the logistics and the systems’ technical maintenance, the financial and human capacities that can grow through these synergies.
We are intensively working with the Health Minister to make sure that entire chain, from the medicines supply to provision of the state-of-the-art technology, motivation and wages of the health personnel and overall management of the health system’s human resources is transformed into a virtuoso chain along its whole length, with separate responsibilities and in a harmony among its all links, including the education link, about which we are closely working with the Rector and the pedagogical team so that we can deliver an important quality leap on a significantly favourable basis. Differently from a part of universities with their weak basis, the University of Medicines has favourable basis to aim higher.
All of these however need to be included within a framework and this framework focuses on creation of a space of communication and transparency between the care service and the citizens. We are working with the minister on this too, so that we can create a system and do so rapidly. We don’t have to invent anything, since this is a system already introduced by other advanced nations, which are already reaping benefits, as the system ensures real-time interaction between citizens needing health care and the system’s authorities. By this I mean the authorities tasked with administering the system, and not doctors or the hospital directorates, but high-level authorities. In order for all the infected interactions be revealed, in order for all new growing procedures be implemented so that clarity and justice characterize whole process starting from the family doctor to the operating room, and everyone is provided care and treated equally.
I am very optimistic that four productive years for the health system lie ahead of us. I am not going to count everything we have already delivered on. What has been done is already done and it is the Minister who is tasked with counting all the accomplishments so that they are not forgotten, but I would only say that the basis is quite favourable. The changes that have taken place are such that they have given those who have really invested to carry out the doctor’s mission passionately and with all the deserved dignity, conditions simply unimaginable just a few years ago. Of course I am talking about the areas where these conditions are created, because there are still points in the system where the conditions haven’t changed at all. However, starting with the Mother Teresa University Hospital Centre –it was not long time ago when I told the Minister that a three-year deadline is unacceptable as we need to make this facility available to the existing maternity hospital within 24 months and we will definitely do – and many other hospitals and healthcare centres across the territory of the country we can see that a new favourable basis has been built.
I would like to assure each and every one of you that we are fully aware and very concerned, we haven’t taken a blind eye to the need to increase wages of doctors and nurses. We will adopt a gradual increase to reach the 40 % promised increase within four years. Whether such a decision will be made in three or four years, this will largely depend on the dynamics of the budget revenues, but we will definitely deliver on this pledge.
Be confident and let us work together and together agree unequivocally that all this cannot be done without mercilessly hitting anyone within the system, who seeks to legalize bribery. We must all agree on this together, because it is no-negotiable.