The government proposes to allocate NOK 200 million more to the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) next year.
– Why are you, as a shop steward, still worried about the economy?
To understand this, one should imagine FHI in two parts, the part that now works intensely with the corona, and the rest of FHI. The ordinary operation of FHI, which does not work with corona, is in difficulty, both in terms of budget, but also in terms of staffing, claims the main shop steward in FHI, Marc Gayorfar.
He believes the corona pandemic has been a double-edged sword for FHI.
– On the one hand, there are new assignments and fresh funds. This is good for the part of the organization that is related to covid-19, or can be reallocated to become so. On the other hand, there are not enough resources in the organization to handle both the corona and all the other tasks FHI has, he believes.
Gayorfar points out that of the allocation to FHI, large parts are earmarked for corona-related work. The proposal for the state budget for 2021 stipulates:
- NOK 46 million to FHI’s infection tracking team.
- NOK 94.1 million goes to increased preparedness and efforts covid-19.
- NOK 30 million goes to the operation of the vaccination program.
NIPH: Large geographical differences in the spread of infection
At the same time, the government’s debureaucratisation cut of 0.5 per cent will continue, which will amount to around 7 million in 2021.
– There must be major re-prioritisations, and there is no doubt about that. The “worst case” scenario is that tasks must be put on ice or cut, and that those who work with the tasks in the long run can end up as redundant, says Gayorfar.
In addition to infection control, FHI is responsible for everything from the poison information to the national water guard. They also have a main responsibility for promoting information to improve Norwegian public health. It can be about everything from environmental toxins to tobacco and other drugs, but also about mental health. And researches everything from violence and abuse to suicide.
Overall, the main shop steward believes that NIPH must now prepare to cover NOK 90 million in so-called budget challenges.
– What evidence do you have for claiming that there will be cuts of that magnitude?
– These are summed figures from FHI’s budget, based on the budget challenges presented there. 40-50 million of them are related to internal needs reported by the subject areas, mostly related to recruitments that are not covid-19-related. 40 million is other costs, investment needs and cuts in connection with the debureaucratisation and efficiency reform (ABE), says Gayorfar.
Since 2015, the so-called ABE reform has led to annual cuts of between 0.5 and 0.8 per cent in the operating expenses of all state enterprises.
For the three-year period 2016–2018, FHI was required to cut about NOK 165 million, as a result of the ABE cut, writes Dagens Medisin.
– Not finished
Assistant FHI director Gun Peggy Knudsen nuances the cut figures Gayorfar estimates.
– Is 90 million a misleading number to use?
This is what FHI says about Halloween
– This figure does not reflect the department’s overall budget challenge or cuts for the budget year 2021. The figure takes into account the areas’ wishes for priorities. It has not been finished and in that sense we do not completely agree with that presentation, says Knudsen.
– But he has an estimate of 40-50 million from specific discussions internally about budget challenges – do you reject that number?
– I do not want to call it budget challenges. These 40-50 million are related to proposals for a priority strengthening of certain activities. There is also uncertainty associated with some of the cost estimates, says the assistant FHI director, and adds:
– This is the cost associated with the various areas’ reported needs, and wishes for internal prioritization. To go from there to say that there will be cuts is wrong.