Latvian Medical and Dental Association (LĀZA in Latvian) was established in Germany in 1947 by recent émigrés. There are some 300 active members in the organisation at this time – in the United States, in Canada and in Europe. Its purpose has always been to bring together Latvian medical professionals. Since 1997, the organisation has had a bureau in Rīga, and it is responsible for publishing the annual newsletter.
During its history, the LĀZA has supported doctors with scholarships and awards of various kinds. Since the restoration of Latvia’s independence, many of these have gone to students and professionals in Latvia itself. Thus the LĀZA represents a bridge between Latvian medical professionals in Latvia and abroad.
MARCHING INTO LATVIA’S SECOND CENTURY!
Dear members of LAZA, colleagues and friends!
Here I will offer a brief review of what we have done in 2018, the centennial of the Republic of Latvia. 70 years ago, when doctors who emigrated from Latvia established the Latvian Association of Physicians and Dentists (LAZA), the aim was to offer active support to colleagues who had emigrated. Since the restoration of Latvia’s independence, our goal has been to support medicine and doctors in Latvia. The fact that we have increasing numbers of members and supporters from Latvia allows our organisation to see problems far more precisely which require solutions. Ongoing problems include insufficient health care financing, low salaries for doctors, nurses and specialists and other areas, and the related emigration to countries where the work of medics is appreciated. According to the Latvian Medical Association, some 1,000 young doctors and dentists have emigrated from Latvia during the past five years, and in percentage terms, that is more than is the case with the population of Latvia. We hope that as financing increases, some colleagues will be interested in returning to Latvia with new knowledge and ideas. To facilitate their return, we worked actively with the World Federation of Free Latvians (PBLA) and the European Association of Latvians (ELA) on a diaspora law that the 12th Saeima (Parliament) adopted on final reading during the last day of its session. This will make it much easier for doctors and instructors to return to Latvia, because academic positions in countries that are not member states of the EU, but have been countries in which representatives of the diaspora have worked will have to be compared to Cabinet of Ministers regulations. We wrote open letters to the president of Latvia and to the Cabinet of Ministers demanding that salaries for doctors be increased, that 12% of the national budget or 4% of GDP be spent on health care, and that the people of Latvia should not be divided up into two “baskets” which mean that poorer people in Latvia who cannot make social contributions would only receive emergency care and support from family doctors. The newly elected Saeima is prepared to review this law, according to party promises and negotiations on a new governing coalition. Early in 2018, there was a media report about the fate of children in the Ainaži Paediatric Psychoneurological Hospital. The LAZA immediately started to look and resolve these problems. Our representatives took part in meetings of the Saeima Social and Labour Committee to see what related organisations and members of Parliament thought about these issues. Thanks to Kaspars Tūters and Kamena Kaidaka, we convened a meeting of all interested parties at the Pauls Stradiņš Museum of the History of Medicine on July 9, bringing together more than 30 specialists from Latvia and abroad. We understood that one of the key problems was a lack of paediatric psychiatrists and psychoanalysts. One reason for that is double certification. Paediatric psychiatrists must first spend four years in a residency related to adult psychiatry and then two years related to paediatric psychiatry, because paediatric psychiatry is seen as a secondary area of specialisation. We worked with the Ministry of Health, the Association of Psychiatrists and the director of the paediatric psychiatry residency, Dr Nikita Bezbarodovs, ensuring that paediatric psychiatry would become a fundamental area of specialisation. The LAZA also submitted recommendations to the Saeima, and we thank Karina Beinerte and other colleagues who were active in helping to deal with this issue. We also informed the public media about our thinking.
For the 11th year in a row, we organised a traditional roundtable discussion, which this time was held on November 20 at the Latvian Institute. This year we talked about the mental health of children and teenagers. How to heal them, how to ensure that young people do not get sick and that sick people do not get sicker - those were the questions to which we sought answers together with the newspaper Laiks, members of the PBLA and LAZA, and our colleagues in Latvia. There are many problems, and more information about the mental care of children can be found in this newsletter.
On July 9, we held a ceremony to provide scholarships from the LAZA Professor Ilmars Lazovskis Medicine Fund to nine upper-year medical students in Latvia, while support from the Ojars Veide Fund was received this year by five young doctors and the Latvian Association of Young Doctors. In order to remember the names and achievements of those people in whose name the scholarships are called, we published extensive information about Professor Ilmars Lazovskis, Professor Irena Groduma and her brother, Ojars Veide, on our homepage. The 4th Global Congress of Latvian Scientists was held in Riga shortly before the Latvian Song and Dance Festival, and the Latvian Ministry of Education invited the LAZA to help in organising it. The congress involved three days of very intensive and diverse topics. I chaired the medical section together with Professor Aivars Lejnieks (Latvia), and more information about the work can be found elsewhere in this newsletter. The LAZA is strengthening links with diaspora organisations, medical schools in Latvia and non-governmental organisations of students and doctors. The LAZA, ELA and the Papardes Zieds organisation led an hour of discussions about the health of women at the LAMPA festival in Cesis on June 28. This year we also developed a partnership with the Ziedot.lv charitable organisation, and we hope to continue our work with it. Lectors and debates involving LAZA members are nothing unusual in Latvia. The LAZA homepage now has a page where colleagues can report their upcoming visits to Latvia, saying when and which LAZA member will be there, the aim being to ease up communication among colleagues and to organise lectures and debates.
Colleagues throughout the world can find the LAZA easily. More than 1,300 colleagues are members of the LAZA group on Facebook, and the LAZA webpage, Lazariga.lv has information about the organisation from its origins to the present day. The LAZA will take part in the Toronto Song and Dance Festival with lectures and a luncheon so that we can all meet in 5th of July 2019. The LAZA will be holding a board election in the autumn of 2019, and we hope that all members will take part. To prepare for the election, the board would remind members that only those members of the LAZA can be elected to the board who have regularly paid membership fees, have been active supporters of LAZA and have their own views about the work of the LAZA in future. I would remind colleagues that board members do not receive a salary for their work. You are free to nominate yourself, or you can be nominated by other members of the LAZA. I hope that the new board will have members from Europe, Australia and Latvia so that our organisation is the true home for our profession throughout the world. On November 18, we all celebrated the centennial of the proclamation of the Republic of Latvia. That path toward that celebration was not an easy one. There have been great changes in the world of medicine, and many of you have helped to ensure that these changes have been good one. For that reason, we want to publish “Thank you for support to our Latvian colleagues”. We must always know how to say thank you, and let’s keep doing that in 2019. I thank donors for their contributions. We all join together in our dedication to help Latvia. Thanks to LAZA members who have paid their annual membership fees. A report on our revenues and expenditures can be found elsewhere in this newsletter. I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart, and let us continue to work actively in pursuit of our slogan: “We will do everything that we can to facilitate the education and co-operation of students, residents, doctors and dentists who are involved in health care and science!” With much respect and thanks for the good year that we have had and with my best wishes of success in the 2019, Uģis Gruntmanis