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Polish Health Minister Łukasz Szumowski resigns

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Łukasz Szumowski has announced his resignation from his position as Minister of Health during a press conference held on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Szumowski said he would return to his profession. He said he had been talking about his resignation for many months with the PM. 

“I was to finish a few matters important for Poland first”, Łukasz Szumowski stated. 

“We managed to prevent the situation of tens of thousands dying from coronavirus in Poland. Of course, the number of cases is rising, but on the other hand we also have an economy that is functioning so there will be more funds for further treatment of other diseases”, he said. 

On Monday, the deputy Health Minister Janusz Cieszyński announced his resignation in social media. 

Łukasz Szumowski began his tenure as Health Minister on January 9, 2018. 

Mr Szumowski’s decision stirred up both the government and the opposition and launched a vivid discussion on social media. 

“I assess my cooperation with Łukasz Szumowski admirably: thank you for your service for the country in this difficult time”, wrote Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki on Twitter. 

“Had it not been for his commitment, knowledge and sleepless nights spent together on making plans for curbing the pandemic, charts with statistical data and recommendations, Poland would not have dealt with the coronavirus as efficiently,” the PM added. 

“Thanks to Minister Łukasz Szumowski, probably the hardest-working Health Minister for 30 years. It was a pleasure and honour to work with you!”, wrote the Development Minister Jadwiga Emilewicz. 

“We are probably the only country in Europe where people occupying top posts in the Health Ministry stealthily quit in the middle of a pandemic. The captain and officer are abandoning the sinking ship, symbolic,” wrote the opposition Civic Coalition party MP Bartosz Arłukowicz. 

“After the resignation of Deputy Health Min Cieszyński the question was when will Minister Szumowski do the same? It is obvious that they are <> in the moment before the second wave of coronavirus,” said the Deputy Senate Speaker Gabriela Morawska-Stanecka from the opposition Spring party on the private TVN24 channel.

During his tenure, Łukasz Szumowski, a professor of medicine and a cardiologist, received support from the government and the ruling party. He would explain the course and dangers of the pandemic, as well as all the steps taken trying to contain it to the public. 

On the other hand, certain actions of the ministry headed by Łukasz Szumowski were widely criticised, mainly by the opposition and affiliated media. Many of its recommendations were perceived as chaotic and contradictory, especially concerning the forest entry ban and the obligation of covering mouth and nose in open public spaces. Procedures regarding carrying out COVID-19 tests was also contested: in August, it has been reported that as many as 230,000 tests (constituting 10 percent of the total amount of tests made since the pandemic broke out) conducted by the Epidemiological Station in Kielce turned out to be void. 

In May, the Gazeta Wyborcza daily wrote that the Health Ministry, without carrying out quality checks prior to the transaction, had purchased over-priced protective masks and ventilators for over EUR 1.1 mln that did not meet the required standards. It has been reported that a friend of Mr Szumowski’s brother was involved in the transaction. 

However, Mr Szumowski’s ministry has reported the matter to the public prosecutor and warned the EC of the fact that the masks purchased from that source were defective. 

Another controversial issue Mr Szumowski was castigated for was the fact that his brother’s company received PLN 140 mln (EUR 31.8 mln) in state grants since the current government came to power. The Central Anti-Corruption Agency (CBA) uncovered certain irregularities concerning the process of awarding grants. 

The government and the ruling Law and Justice party stood up for the minister arguing that the opposition is trying to destroy his credibility. The former Deputy PM and Higher Education minister Jarosław Gowin has said that Mr Szumowski had been clear and transparent about his brother’s involvement in seeking grants and was therefore excluded from the grant making process involving the National Centre for Research and Development (NCBR) which the Ministry of Higher Education supervised.

The Opposition also criticised him for transferring shares in his brother’s company to his wife in order to avoid having to declare them.

POLAND In / ONET

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