Bulgaria vets public hospitals for suspected fraud

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Bulgaria on Tuesday launched a mass investigation into suspected mismanagement at all public hospitals after the emergence of numerous fraudulent contracts in recent months. “Our aim is to uncover practices that syphon off funds and rob the patients,” Health Minister Kiril Ananiev said at a press conference in the capital Sofia.

Authorities will review all contracts signed by the country’s 195 state-owned or municipal hospitals with private health service providers. Inspectors will look for disadvantageous deals that could result in mismanagement charges for the hospitals’ boards of directors, chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said.

Hospitals targeted by allegations include one in the northwestern town of Vratsa which was caught trying to sign off on dubious contracts, Tsatsarov said. The alleged scams ranged from leasing space to a private hospital service provider at extremely low rates to buying a tomograph scanner from another private company for two times its actual price.

The checks also revealed that the private hospital “hired” the public hospital’s cardiac surgeons to perform the most expensive operations in order to receive state funding. “This practice of creating ‘a hospital inside a hospital’ is a common way to drain state or municipal healthcare funds,” Tsatsarov said.

The healthcare system of the European Union’s poorest member state is financed by compulsory monthly installments by all employees. But rampant corruption and an ageing population have led to chronic under-funding, with nine hospitals on the brink of bankruptcy, according to official data.

At 48 percent, Bulgarians are also paying the bloc’s highest out-of-pocket patient contributions to the cost of their healthcare, a recent European Commission report showed.

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