Asked by the state-run TVP Info news channel about the protest, Piotr Müller said the health-service workers were effectively demanding that the country's annual healthcare budget of around PLN 120 billion (EUR 26 billion, USD 30 billion) be "almost doubled" from this year to the next.
“Everyone can see that this cannot be done overnight,” Müller said.
“Nevertheless, we accept that certain healthcare professions ought to be better remunerated, but there must be a constructive discussion," he added.
'Demands of political nature'
According to Müller, some of the protesting medics are "indeed being constructive," while others “have put forward demands of a political nature.”
Union leaders refused to sit down for talks with Health Minister Adam Niedzielski on Tuesday and did not attend a meeting at the presidential palace a day later.
They are demanding to see Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, arguing he has the real decision-making power.
The medics are calling for better pay, more support staff, civil servant status, protection against abuse from patients and that staff levels be linked to the number of patients, among other demands.
Deputy Health Minister Waldemar Kraska on Wednesday called these objectives “impossible to achieve next year,” but said the ministry was willing to discuss concrete pay improvements.
'White City 2.0'
After a demonstration in central Warsaw last Saturday, healthcare workers set up what they dubbed “White City 2.0,” a camp made up of tents and stalls, in front of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka
Under a new bill currently going through parliament, the government seeks to raise healthcare spending to 7 percent of GDP by 2027.
The legislation is part of the conservative government's flagship Polish New Deal initiative to boost the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic.