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Bulgarian government survives no-confidence vote on healthcare

Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev's coalition government survived a no-confidence vote backed by opposition parties claiming the administration failed to improve the country's health-care system.

The vote in parliament was 60 in favor, 163 against and one abstention. The government controls 169 seats in the 240-member legislature. The no-confidence vote was backed by the United Democratic Forces, Democrats for Strong Bulgaria, Bulgarian People's Union and Attack, which together account for 55 lawmakers.

„The vote aimed to test whether it is possible to break up the ruling coalition,” Stanishev said at the assembly in Sofia today after the balloting. „It failed, showing that the coalition is strong and unified.” The European Union, which Bulgaria joined on January 1, has repeatedly criticized the government for delaying changes and tolerating corruption in the public health service. Protests by underpaid doctors and nurses have become a daily occurrence, while patient-advocacy organizations protest the lack of life-saving medical supplies.

The opposition parties accused the 18-month old Cabinet of failing to reduce corruption in hospitals and ensuring access to modern medical treatment. Stanishev's Cabinet comprises a coalition of the Bulgarian Socialist party, the National Movement for Simeon II and the ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms. The National Health Fund, set up in 1998 to help transform the state-run health care system into a market-based system suffers from shortages of money and fails to cover basic treatment for a majority of patients.

Most hospitals are state-owned, while other medical institutions are private, which has led to a lack of coordination between sectors of the health care system.” It is a pity the government doesn't want to consider options to improve the health care system, which is corrupt and makes access to decent health care very difficult,” Ivan Kostov, leader of Democrats for Strong Bulgaria, said after the vote. The government faced one other no-confidence vote in April 2006 over its delay in flood recovery work. (Bloomberg)