Open letter from the donor community: The state should take responsibility for the healthcare and medical treatment of its citizens

  •  November 11, 2020

In an open letter, 45 civic organizations expressed their position after a journalist investigation report of the television bTV about serious irregularities in the management of the Bulgarian donation platform HelpKarma. The Bulgarian Fund for Women is part of the open letter.

Media disclosures provoked major public scandal and created tensions among the community of donors. “Trust is the most important, but also the most fragile aspect in philanthropy. That is why, working in this field requires ethics, professionalism, dedication and energy, and the donor culture is built and nurtured over the years.

As organizations working for the development of philanthropy and civil society in Bulgaria, we believe that the reasons for such scandals should be discussed openly and honestly.

How it got here: from inspiration to outrage?

It is an indisputable fact that the health system in the country does not work effectively and thus, does not guarantee adequate and timely support to all those in need. In recent years, well-functioning mechanisms, such as the Children’s Treatment Fund, have been destroyed. As early as 2016, when scandals around the Fund began and led to its closure. While, its activities were transferred to National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), we publicly warned that this would inevitably lead to an avalanche of donation campaigns for treatment, for which there is no clear regulation and the fate of hundreds of children will depend on donors.

A truly functioning system for a medical treatment of people abroad has never been built. Currently, the NHIF declares that cover treatment abroad (when the Bulgarian healthcare system could not cover the needs), but for the first 9 months of 2020 only BGN 547,013 have been allocated for the treatment of children out of the country, while millions have been raised from donors in campaigns. Social support for people with disabilities is also minimal, especially for children, who often do not receive the best in therapy and care due to the underfunded system and lack of financial abilities of their families.

It is more than clear that institutions are not efficient, and Bulgaria continues to be the only country in the EU, in which citizens are bound to raise funds in order to save lives.

At the same time, a large part of the civil society organizations (associations, foundations, community centers, school boards, clubs) which are one of the main actors in solving significant social problems and providing community support and urgent help, where the state is not enough, work mainly thanks to private donors. This means that we must not allow diligent and credible organizations and initiatives to suffer unfairly the consequences of a broken trust in one platform.

We therefore expect the competent authorities to carry out an investigation quickly and to inform the public of the results. If there are to be found abuses of trust or finances, they should be penalized quickly and effectively. To return as soon as possible to the trustworthy and sustainable donation environment that both donors and beneficiaries deserve.

However, it is vital – that we, as a society, unite and demand from the state the creation of adequate and working financial mechanisms, which would provide timely and quality medical treatment for people in need. And not to shift the responsibility for the health and lives of thousands of people entirely to donors.

Over the years, many crisis situations have proven that you, the donors, are always there for support and hope when it’s needed. Thank you for this!

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