On September 18th 2013 a strike of Croatian doctors was started, organized by the Croatian Doctors' Trade Union. It was done in cooperation with the Croatian Nurses' Union (which finished their participation in strike on September 26th 2013). The doctors are still in strike in Croatia (now already lasting more than 5 weeks).
The main reasons for the strike included mostly working conditions, in specific the revision of the way that overtime hours (on-calls in specific) are paid, as well as the fact that despite Government's promise of doctors' salaries have already been reduced two times in year 2013.
The change in working conditions happened when the Tribunal in Croatia invalidated the national collective agreement for doctors and other health workers, signed in October 2011, due to procedural mistakes. After a series of unfruitful negotiations with the Minister of Health, the doctors' Trade Union was compelled to promote, on the 18th of September, a general strike to defend their rights that had been compromised.
In their current state, salaries and benefits of Croatian doctors don't correspond to their social status, their competencies, their responsibility; their effort engaged in a prolonged and stable work, often beyond the European Working Time Directive, that Croatia, now a welcome EU member State, is expected to comply with.
The proposed salaries are among the lowest in Europe, far below the EU average, and ignore the heavy responsibilities and don’t take into account the intellectual equilibrium that is necessary to cure and care for the patients. Doctors' bad working conditions demonstrated to cause errors and worsening of the care, which endangers the patients. At the same time, a low quality of care increases the costs of the system.
There has been tremendous support for the struggle of Croatian doctors from European Medical Organisation, mainly by FEMS, recommending the ruling health authorities to reopen the dialogue with doctors' Trade Union representatives. The main goal is to consider the benefits the profession and the citizens would have by a separate collective agreement for the doctors, which is a practice in most EU member States.
One important point for consideration it that, in EU, doctors and health workers are becoming a precious and limited resource, as the demographic trends already show their dramatic decrease with a still more negative trend in the near future. Besides, in EU there is a free circulation of professionals and patients (especially in the light of the approved directive on crossborder healthcare), therefore bad working conditions of Croatian doctors, much lower than in the EU average, poses a risk for the future of the Croatian Health System. In the period of first three months since Croatia's entrance into the EU, almost 150 doctors have applied for necessary document with the Croatian Medical Chamber, in order to work in another country. It is projected that if this trend continues, on an annual level it will mean that more doctors are leaving Croatia than is the number of doctors graduating from Croatian Medical Schools.
At this moment, negotiations on the new collective agreement are still underway, and no clear date is known when those will be finished; Croatian doctors continue to be in strike.