The recent auction of the Speaker of the Polish Parliament, Szymon Hołownia, as part of the 32nd finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity (Polish: Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy, WOŚP) has sparked a debate. Some commentators believe it is inappropriate for politicians to participate in this charitable event.
The 32nd finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity is scheduled for January 28th. This year's theme is "Lungs after a pandemic". The charity event aims to raise funds to purchase medical equipment for pulmonology wards in hospitals across Poland to help children and adults. In 2023, the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity raised more than PLN 243 million to fight sepsis.
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Why do we need WOŚP?
On 20th January, the Parliament's Office announced on its official social media accounts that the Speaker, Szymon Hołownia, would participate in the 32nd final of the GOCC. As part of the auction, he put up a railing in front of the parliament building for sale and offered someone the opportunity to auction a dinner with him.
Under his recent post, former government supporters have left comments accusing the Speaker of selling 'public property' to promote himself. However, these accusations are not entirely accurate. Even if the railing is considered public property, the funds raised from its sale will be put towards public hospitals. Moreover, Hołownia has been involved in charity work for many years, making it clear that his intentions are genuine and he simply wants to help.
There are also some critical comments regarding the participation of all politicians in the GOCC event. One user, named @julia37856, has stated that the irony lies not in their attempt to gain public favour but in the fact that the fundraiser was created as a result of the state neglecting healthcare. Citizens are called upon to support it with donations. It is worth mentioning that Hołownia is not the only politician participating in this year's finale.
How is public health care funded in Poland?
The year 2024 marks the 35th anniversary of a political change that gave Polish citizens the right to decide who governs the country. Public health care is one of the primary responsibilities of the Polish government. However, over the years, no governing team has managed to create a system that eliminates the need for the GOCC fundraiser.
According to the European Statistical Office, Poland ranked second-to-last in the European Union in terms of spending on citizens' health in 2020. This data takes into account the percentage of the state budget spent on healthcare. In the 2024 budget, approximately PLN 195 billion will be allocated to healthcare, equivalent to around 6.1% of the country's GDP. This represents an increase of about 0.6% from 2020.
It's important to note that the amount of money spent on healthcare is not the only factor determining the system's quality. How the funds are utilised is equally important.
Based on the increases observed over the years, it can be estimated that the GOCC will raise approximately PLN 250 million by 2024. According to wp.pl, the foundation plans to use this amount to equip 64 pulmonology wards nationwide with the latest equipment. This funding constitutes about 0.12% of the state's projected health budget for 2024, which is roughly 250 million.