Czech doctors "postpone" services

The patience of Czech general practitioners, dentists and pharmacists is quickly coming to an end. About 22 000 health care professionals stopped providing their services Tuesday morning in hopes that the Czech government will take notice of its failure to meet their needs during its reform of the health sector.

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All ambulatory services throughout the country have been put to a halt between 11:00 am and 12:00 pm Tuesday. Though one hour may not seem like a significant time to really make an impact, Czech doctors note that it is a symbolic first step. If their demands for increased involvement in the reform making process will not be met, more drastic protests will take place to increase the pressure on government officials. Ales Krivanek a private gynecologist from Olomouc Moravia.

"We would like to start dialogue with the government. They are speaking behind closed doors and not with us. We are the ones who care about the patients on a daily basis. They are making the political decisions but are completely distanced from the real situation of health care."

Within the duration of the hour, clinics and health centers have not closed their doors to patients but instead welcomed them to discuss the financial situation of the health sector. I asked Mr. Krivanek whether the "one hour" of postponed services will only inconvenience patients and not really bring awareness to targeted government officials.

"No. This is the first step and I think that nobody wants to see our doctors go on strike. Nobody. No government wants to see this. It looks bad."

The government's ongoing reforms of the health sector are lead by the Coalition Commission. The commission had promised to allocate 3.4 billion Czech crowns to hospitals and 3 billion crowns to health insurance companies. To many health care workers this is just a cosmetic solution to the past problem of indebtedness, where the problem lies in creating a more up to date and strategic dispersal of funds. Health care professionals who deal with patients on a daily basis would like to assist in the resolution making process and not just be able to veto. Dr. Ales Krivanek

"In comparison to Western Europe and the United States more than half the funds in the Czech Republic's health care system go to the hospitals and not to clinics, pharmacies and the doctors who are caring about the patients."

In all of the Czech Republic there are about 40,000 doctors, 7,500 dentists and 6,600 pharmacists. Out of this total about 22 000 have participated in Tuesday's protest.