Brigadier General Prof. Nikolay Petrov is the new head of the VMA-Sofia as of June 3 this year. He was born on August 29, 1959 in the town of Sredets. He graduated from the Medical Academy of Medical Sciences - Varna in 1985. From 1992 to 2004, he worked as a resident, assistant, senior and chief assistant at the Medical Academy of Medical Sciences - Sofia. Since 2004, he has been the head of the Department of Anesthesiology, resuscitation and intensive care at the Academy of Medical Sciences and a republican consultant on anesthesiology, resuscitation and intensive care. He is the president of the Society of Anesthesiologists in Bulgaria. He was briefly the Minister of He alth in the caretaker government of Marin Raykov, but he did not hide that he was relieved to return to the medical profession.
On December 1, the elite hospital celebrates its 123rd anniversary. Despite the joy of the celebration, the head of the VMA said that the medical institution continues to have debts of over BGN 100 million. The top expert in anesthesiology talked about the present and the future of the VMA in an interview specially for "Doctor".
Prof. Petrov, tell us about the celebrations on the occasion of the 123rd anniversary of the founding of the Academy of Arts
- On December 1, we celebrate 123 years since the foundation of the Academy of Arts. As most times before, there will be a ceremony in front of the Academy at 10 a.m., with a military band, we will lay wreaths at the monument to the fallen military doctors, so we will pay tribute to our predecessors. At 10:30 a.m. there will be a solemn meeting in the cinema hall of the VMA, there will be official speeches, greetings from guests. I am expecting the military, the he alth minister, the president, deputy ministers, directors of major hospitals and many more guests. We will reward some of those working in the VMA system for good achievements. After the official part, there will be a short concert, which will be performed by the orchestra of the Ministry of Defense. There will also be a cocktail hour at the VMA Club to celebrate the anniversary over a glass of wine.
What is the current financial situation of the VMA?
- The condition of the VMA continues to be dire because we have serious debts - this is the main struggle we are fighting at the moment. We managed to detail the expenses we have, we have been renegotiating the repayment of the debts for quite some time, of the type of negotiations with the companies and achieving some kind of discount - whether from interest or from the entire amount. The companies are so good and take about 20% off the total amount, provided we are regular in our payments. We are making repayment plans, we will be able to save about BGN 1.3 million. In parallel with this, we are also renegotiating contracts with companies for future deliveries and have negotiated discounts in the amount of BGN 8.5 million
We lowered the cost of medicines for October this year. with BGN 400 thousand compared to the same month last year We put a little more order in the preparation of requests, more control. All heads of clinics cooperate very correctly, they are the basis of these successes.
How do you work with the NHS?
- Regarding the work with the He alth Insurance Fund, it is going correctly. However, the limit given by the NHIF definitely makes it difficult for us. It is obtained that on the one hand
patients prefer our hospital, but with an imposed work limit we cannot satisfy their needs. I want to share data of the Fund, which shows that we are the third preferred hospital in the country. In the first place is "St. Georgi" in Plovdiv, it is the largest in this region. In second place is "St. Marina" in Varna, which also serves a huge contingent of patients. In third place is VMA-Sofia. At the same time, when it comes to securing a financial resource, we are in 9-10th place there. This is not fair.
Another big problem is that we are not paid for emergency care by the Ministry of He alth. I will have a meeting with Minister Moskov and I will ask him to do the necessary. We have a very good emergency center, a large flow of patients. BGN 8-10 million annually go to this activity, we do it, but we are not paid. We don't get paid for psychiatric treatment either, although our clinic is very good. However, we have patients, but they remain at the expense of the hospital. Another very serious problem is that we do not have a contract with the NHIF for work in pre-hospital care, for the simple reason that we do not have a structure that is registered as a DCC. The fund has no legal basis to conclude a contract with us for 2 activities - such as a hospital and a DCC - for this reason we cannot examine patients with a referral. And we have the polyclinic and it works, but no money comes into the Academy because we don't report referrals. This should be done with changes to the Law on Medical Facilities, there will be a lot of committee running.
I.e. we are preferred by the patients, but we are in a suffocating embrace and this does not give us the opportunity to develop. We are needed when there are disasters, accidents, severe cases, but not so desired when it comes to the distribution of financial resources. We don't want anything special from others, we want justice. We don't want to earn more, we want to get the money we have earned.
BGN 100 million are debts surmountable for a hospital like VMA?
- Debts grew every month by BGN 4-5 million. Now at least we have stopped this growth - it is difficult to digest such overspending.
Savings cannot be infinite
We must also work in the direction of revenues, not only to realize savings. BGN 100 million is a lot, even for a hospital like VMA - it is difficult to return such money, I will rely exclusively on help from the state.
I understand my task as the head of the VMA like this - if we can avoid incurring new debts and cover part of the old ones, all this on the condition that we preserve the structure and personnel. Because without personnel, there is no activity, the equipment is also nothing.
Are you optimistic about the future of the hospital?
- I am moderately optimistic. Against the background of everything that is happening in the world and in Bulgaria. But I profess the philosophy that when we work objectively and cleanly, God will help us.
What is your assessment of the short time you have been in charge of the VMA?
- It's early to take stock - this is not a small structure. I have worked here all my life and at the beginning I lived with the thought that within 3 months I would enter the work. Many people told me it would take me 1 year, and they were right. I keep finding things that surprise me. I work in the morning from 6:30 a.m. to 7-8 p.m. in the evening. I want to reach everywhere and everything, I'm in a period of overload. But I won't complain, I've got the hang of it and whatever good I can do, I'll do it.
Do you have time left for the ICU patients?
- In the morning I visit the intensive care unit, then I go down to the second floor and start a fight with the administration. They will "kill" me here with folders and documents, there is no end to it, such a document turnover is going on… When I was a minister, I was also "scared" of the piles of folders that lined my desk. In the shortest possible time you have to read what you are signing and how things develop, this is a big responsibility.
VMA recently hosted a Congress on Parenteral Nutrition, it was a great success. I found that the anesthesiology guild is alive and well and will not surrender easily. These are some of the best doctors and people too, the nature of the work makes them so. It's a stressful job, you often encounter death - sobering situations for any person. The encounter with death is always like the first time, there is no getting used to it. We don't always manage to save a patient, but conversations with relatives are always like the first time for us doctors. - Is there any change in the he alth system as a whole in your opinion? - There is a positive attitude in the new leadership of the Ministry of He alth. They have many good ideas, I hope they have the courage and strength to realize them. It is clear to all of us that changing things has to start somewhere. The new minister is also an anesthesiologist, do you notice that lately only colleagues from this speci alty stand at the head of the Ministry of He alth?
There were rumors that you were also offered this post - is that true?
- I have not been offered such a post. The president chose Dr. Miroslav Nenkov for the caretaker government, and now I am not offered to become the minister of he alth. It was not a dream for me. When I was a m.g., I took it as a task - for a certain period of time to do certain things. I know I did well, you can't get a lot of important things done in 3 months, but at least I didn't expose myself. I leave the ratings for my work to others.