From 1 January next year, the government wishes to guarantee that general practitioners should not earn less than stated in the pay scale, Gergely Gulyás, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office said at a press conference held on Thursday in Budapest.

He highlighted that the details are currently being worked out, regarding which they will consult with the Hungarian Chamber of Doctors. The Minister described the pay rise of physicians as a milestone, pointing out that from 1 January 2021, based on the pay scale of physicians, a 125 per cent pay rise will be implemented.

He mentioned as examples that from 1 January a resident without a specialist degree in employment for three years will have a pre-tax salary of HUF 613,000, while a physician in employment for forty years could expect a pre-tax salary of almost HUF 1.7 million.

From 1 January 2022, a resident without a specialist degree in employment for three years will have a pre-tax salary of HUF 788,000, while a physician in employment for forty years could expect a pre-tax salary of almost HUF 2.1 million. According to the pay scale, a doctor with 11 years’ experience will earn HUF 1.26 million, he said.

He also highlighted that from 1 January 2023, the salary in the first category will be HUF 875,000, almost HUF 2.4 million in the second, and some HUF 1.4 million in the third.

He indicated that there is scope for a 20 per cent upward adjustment, based on which the highest salary under the pay scale will be in excess of HUF 2.8 million, not including any duty time.

This is a great step, a milestone in the post-1990 history of health care, he said in summary. He highlighted that with this, they will be able to remove gratuities from the system, and he said it is especially joyous that this could take place based on the recommendation of the Hungarian Chamber of Doctors.

He observed that the government had adopted the most favourable pay scale.

Mr Gulyás stressed that no issue had emerged that could not be settled later, and that the detailed regulations, too, would be worked out in cooperation with the Chamber of Doctors.

Regarding the fight against the epidemic, he said there are 36 designated epidemic hospitals throughout the country, and as regards staff transfers, “they are way below” one per cent of health care workers.

He said if a physician works for 4, 6 or 8 hours a day, against the background of the new pay scale, they will be allowed to engage in private medical activities with the consent of the employer hospital. At the same time, they want to eliminate the situation where a physician works in three private practices, in addition to completing an eight-hour shift in hospital.

In his words, the starting point should be that it is difficult to work in a responsible manner for more than 10 to 12 hours a day.

In answer to a question related to the deployability of physicians, Mr Gulyás pointed out that in a public health emergency, in a state of disease control preparedness it is justified and also unavoidable to have to transfer staff between institutions. However, in peacetime, under normal circumstances, this should be an exceptional option in health care.

This rule applies to extraordinary situations, and no one considers transferring physicians living in Debrecen to a hospital in Szombathely, the Minister said, taking the view that, for instance, a train or coach accident with many casualties could give rise to such a measure.

He also indicated that they would consult with the Hungarian Chamber of Doctors with respect to the government decree laying down the details. He said in November all relevant decrees will be issued; however, other than antenatal and gynaecology wards, he does not see many areas which would call for specific regulations.

Regarding the pay rise of general practitioners, the Minister said in their case it is more difficult to tell how much the income is because the so-called quota fee also forms part of the salary, and that depends on the size of the practice.

Therefore, in their case, it makes no sense to talk about standardised pay rises; the government can only lay down that if a general practitioner’s salary does not reach a fixed amount, the state will provide the difference, he added, indicating that the detailed regulations are currently being identified.

Mr Gulyás stressed that in total during this term of government, the pay of nurses will increase by 72 per cent which is an unprecedented rate. He said from 1 November, the salaries of nurses will increase by 20 per cent, while in 2022 they will receive another 30 per cent rise.

He highlighted that in the present situation physicians and nurses have enormous responsibility, and it is therefore a favourable outcome that they have finally managed to pass a law regarding the pay rises of physicians on which there is agreement both in politics and in the medical profession.

The Minister said it is important to put an end to the practice of gratuities, and that a pay scale has been approved for physicians which could slow down the process of physicians leaving for abroad. In fact, once the situation is made perfectly clear in health care, many could return from abroad.

Regarding the epidemic situation, he said Hungary is among the countries that are defending themselves well against the virus also in the second wave.

The most important benchmark number is the number of fatalities, and in this regard several large and rich countries in Western Europe fall far behind Central Europe, while Hungary has the Central European average, he pointed out.

He observed that in Hungary 90 fatalities fall on one million persons; this is the region’s average.

Mr Gulyás highlighted that in order to prevent a deterioration in numbers during the second wave, they are asking everyone to observe the rules because this is the only guarantee to minimise the number of incidences and to protect the largest possible number of lives.

During the first wave, the top priority was to gain time in order to prepare health care; this time, however, the equipment necessary for the fight against the virus is available, including personal and physical conditions, he stated.

He highlighted that Hungary’s economy protection efforts are among the best as regards the labour market, and the unemployment rate here is much better than in the European Union.

The Minister said protecting jobs and families and supporting businesses continue to remain the government’s priorities.

In the past few months, the government has contributed to the protection or coming into being of 1.4 million jobs, and it is also thanks to this that more than 4.5 million people have jobs which is only a little below the highest ever employment figure, he said.

He observed that while in the EU unemployment stands at above 7 per cent, at around 7.5 per cent, in Hungary it is 3.9 per cent.

Mr Gulyás also mentioned that at the cabinet meeting Minister without Portfolio for Families Katalin Novák outlined her plans, and will table specific proposals in a week’s time.

He said construction procedures will be simplified; there will be rules which will allow for the simplification of the present planning permission procedure.

He said the government will submit to Parliament the proposal on the extension of the credit debt repayment moratorium. According to this, pensioners, families raising children, the participants of public works schemes and businesses whose revenues have fallen by more than 25 per cent will not be required to repay their credit debts during the extended moratorium.

Outlining the results of the national consultation, Mr Gulyás said most respondents, 83 per cent, support the rules relating to the wearing of face masks from among the protective measures in effect. 79 per cent support the restriction of events and border closure. 78 per cent support social distancing, 64 per cent support restrictions on the exportation of protective equipment, 62 per cent support the shopping slot reserved for the elderly, 61 per cent support free parking, and 59 per cent support restrictions on movement.

The Minister said thank you for the fact that people in such high numbers completed the national consultation questionnaires. He said this was the second highest participation, and this also shows that the government’s proposition regarding social dialogue has come up to expectations.

Regarding the fact that Mayor of Kispest Péter Gajda knew that one of his colleagues was a drug user, he said this is a crime in Hungary, and if the suspicion arises, prosecution must follow.

At the same time, the Left will have to draw the political conclusions, he said, adding that they now see that neither anti-Semitic statements, nor drug abuse are disqualifying circumstances for members of their community.

They can only pledge to make the necessary funds available, all other circumstances fall beyond the government’s control, he said in answer to a question regarding the situation that has developed at the University of Theatre and Film Arts.

Regarding the fate of the HUF 20 billion allocated for this year’s pension premiums, he said all similar items have been transferred to the economy protection fund. He will inform members of the press about the precise source of the pension supplement after the government’s relevant decision.

In connection with the future of the Mátra Power Station, he indicated that the government supports conversions which are related to the climate targets undertaken by Hungary.

Also today, the procedure under penal law applicable to the threat of public endangerment can equally apply to extreme forms of scaremongering, the Minister said in answer to a question about how to take action against those who deny the existence of the virus. He added that the government thought it was necessary to adopt more stringent rules with regard to the extraordinary situation. However, if there is wider consensus regarding the adoption of more stringent rules than those that are in force at present, the government is open to this.

Hungary insists that the EU should impose stringent sanctions on those who violate the rules relating to the utilisation of EU funds before the end of this year. However, tying the availability of funds to rule of law requirements creates scope for political blackmail against right-wing governments, he said in response to the European Parliament’s decision adopted this week.

Casinos, too, will have to close at 11.00 p.m., the decree regarding this will be released this week, he outlined the decision adopted by the government in response to the Operational Group’s recommendation.

Commenting on the judgment on the ownership of the Úzvölgy military cemetery in favour of Csíkszentmárton, he said it is a welcome decision, and it is to be hoped that court judgments are implemented in Romania as well.

If this is not the case, the Hungarian government will turn to international forums, he said, adding that the Romanian authorities can be legitimately expected to take action against an anticipated nationalist threat.

The Minister said “it is a serious incident” that opposition candidate for Member of Parliament for the constituency of Tiszaújváros László Bíró failed to pay his seamstresses after his business collected state grants worth HUF 50 million. He said the necessary investigations will have to be conducted.

In answer to a question, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office said in the context of the nomination of László Bíró as the opposition’s candidate for Tiszaújváros that it is a unique scandal that the entire Left and Mayor of Budapest Gergely Karácsony all lined up to support a candidate who refers to Budapest as ‘Judapest’ and makes clearly anti-Semitic statements.

This nullifies the very little credibility the Left have gathered for themselves in the past thirty years, he said, adding that it is the personal responsibility of the Mayor of Budapest that he is taking part in this.

Mr Gulyás said regarding the half a per cent increase of the local trade tax initiated by the Mayor of Budapest that crisis management by the Left always results in tax increases; by contrast, the right-wing, conservative, Christian democratic government is a government of tax reductions.

He added that if the metropolitan municipality wants to save money, they could save as much as a billion forints by reducing the number of deputy mayors to the previous level.

Regarding the refurbishment of the building of the Radetzky Barracks, he said the project will benefit the capital. As part of it, a hotel and an office block will be created, while the original façade of the building from the Danube front will remain unchanged.

Commenting on the fact that Momentum congratulated Marosvásárhely’s newly-elected Hungarian mayor in Romanian, the Minister said this is a logical continuation of the fact that in the campaign Momentum supported a Romanian party against RMDSZ.

After the congratulations, we have every reason to look upon Momentum itself as a Romanian party, he stated,

Regarding the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union related to the CEU, Mr Gulyás said they are studying the judgment and will adopt rules that conform to it. In answer to the question as to whether the European Court may have overreached its powers in the CEU case, Mr Gulyás said there will be major professional debates related to the interpretation of the Services Directive because if only the EU body of law had been taken into consideration, they could not have reached this decision. He indicated that it is possible to ask for the clarification of the judgment, and the government will probably resort to that option.

Mr Gulyás took the view regarding the fact that George Soros called on the EU to start a test case against Hungary that the ‘test case’ is not a concept under European law, and is therefore not applicable.

Regarding the possible successor of President of the Republic János Áder, the Minister said at Fidesz’s board meeting the Prime Minister made clear the firm intention that the election of a new head of state and possible candidates should be off the agenda until 1 January 2022.

The Minister was also asked about the fact that in the person of Zsolt András Varga, the Curia may have a new president who has not yet served as a judge.

Mr Gulyás stressed that since 2012 the Constitutional Court has been engaged in a meaningful role in the administration of justice, and so a person who has served as a constitutional judge since then must necessarily have the required experience.

He added that Mr Varga is one of the most reputable law professors in Hungary, a university head of department and a member of the Venice Commission, meaning that there is hardly another candidate better suited to act as the head of the Curia.

(Prime Minister’s Office / MTI)