site.btaDismissal of Sofia Hospital Director Causes Flare-Up of Tensions between Government-Backing Parties
A decision by Health Minister Hristo Hinkov to remove the Director of Sofia's Pirogov emergency hospital, Valentin Dimitrov on Tuesday caused a flare-up of tensions between the two power-sharing coalitions, GERB-UDF and Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria (CC-DB). The former threatened to boycott the Cabinet and refused to attend a meeting of the parliamentary Budget and Finance Committee scheduled to hold a second-reading debate on amendments to a package of tax laws. Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov (of CC-DB) said that he was taken aback by GERB-UDF's "aggressive reaction".
In a press release on Tuesday, the Health Ministry announced the dismissal of the Director of Sofia's Pirogov emergency hospital, Valentin Dimitrov. It added that Konstantin Dimov has been appointed in his place and will serve as a director until a new competition is held. The press release also said that Dimitrov was dismissed due to irregularities found in an audit report by the Health Ministry. The audit found violations, including of the Public Procurement Act. The internal audit report was submitted to the Sofia City Prosecution Office and the Finance Minister Assen Vassilev with a request to commission a financial inspection by the Public Finance Inspection Agency (PFIA). In this regard, a prosecution file was opened and a letter was received by the Health Ministry from the PFIA providing information that a financial inspection of the hospital will be commissioned.
Another motive for Dimitrov's dismissal was the public tension created after competitions for appointing heads of hospital departments took place, the Health Ministry also said.
Later on Tuesday, Sofia City Court temporarily halted the registration of Konstantin Dimov as Pirogov Director. The court halts the registration until a decision is made whether Dimitrov’s request, who contests his dismissal, is reasoned.
On November 28, ahead of a meeting of the parliamentary health committee, Health Minister Hristo Hinkov told the press that an audit at Sofia's Pirogov emergency hospital in the period between June 2022 and July 2023 established financial irregularities and found the hospital to be in a bad financial condition. He said that prosecutors are expected to investigate the matter.
Established in 1951, Pirogov is one of the country's largest hospitals and a leader in the field of emergency medical services.
The GERB boycott
GERB-UDF Floor Leader Desislava Atanasova told reporters in the corridors of Parliament that they will not support a single bill proposed by the Council of Ministers until a decision-making mechanism is adopted whereby the government (of mostly CC-DB-appointed members) would consult GERB as they make decisions. Atanasova said that the GERB-UDF MPs will only attend parliamentary sittings that concern the adoption of amendments to the Bulgarian Constitution. "When in a government we bear the burden of responsibility to the Bulgarian citizens together, we should also take decisions together, and this is once again not happening. We are beginning to think that someone is deliberately looking for provocations. We are aware what it means for Bulgaria to have no stable state budget. I believes that how we move forward from here is more important. The current partnership [between GERB-UDF and CC-DB] cannot last without trust," she said.
Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov commented that "blocking the budget because you disagree with a minister's decision is no way to behave". "The National Assembly's job is to pass the budget and the laws. There is something wrong if the National Assembly believes that its main task is to watch out for replacements of hospital directors. Every institution needs to see to its tasks and if Parliament wants to get involved in the matter, there are ways to do it: it can summon the Health Minister to appear before a committee or in the debating chamber. The party leaders in the National Assembly need to get together and figure out how to unblock the situation. There are parliamentary procedures. They should use them," he said.
He also said that he was informed about the removal of the Pirogov director but had not ask the Health Minister to dismiss him, and nor could he stop him from doing so "because it would appear as if I had interfered with his work".
Here are some more comments:
National Assembly Deputy Chairperson Nikola Minchev of Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria: I do not think that a personnel decision within the competence of the Heath Minister should affect the work of the National Assembly in such a way.
Parliamentary Health Committee Head Kostadin Angelov: The Pirogov hospital is making a profit. There are many reasons why we should not allow political pressure be used to replace one person or another. Pirogov’s Director is doing his job, the hospital is profitable, and they are trying to fabricate a new scandal – this time concerning hospital competitions. There is only one question - who is the prime minister of Bulgaria, obviously not Denkov. Apparently, it is the Health Minister, Prof. Hinkov, who makes decisions that Prime Minister Denkov says will not be made. Hinkov is not a GERB-UDF nominee. Whoever nominated Hinkov as minister is responsible for that minister, he should decide what to do with him.
Movement for Rights and Freedoms floor leader Delyan Peevski: We declare our full support for Pirogov. We call on the parties and the heads of cabinets to restrain themselves from interfering in the health sector and firing and hiring in hospitals to serve their own interests.