Czech GPs go on strike to get higher payments from health insurance companies
Most general practitioners in the Czech Republic kept their surgeries closed on Wednesday as doctors went on strike to make sure their voices are heard. At the moment Czech GPs are negotiating next year's payments they receive from health insurance companies for treating individual patients.
"Based on the information from the regions, about 86 percent of GPs closed their offices today and the rest of them are providing emergency care for patients. This protest is not aimed at our patients; it is aimed at insurance companies. Negotiations with them failed at the beginning of September, but as we are protesting, they came back to the table and the negotiation goes on."
The protest has been held to bring attention to the problems of underpaid Czech GPs, and to pressure health insurance companies to accept their demands. General practitioners are demanding a substantial rise in the payments they receive from health insurance companies. As of now, they get 36 crowns, or 1.8 U.S. dollars, per patient. GPs originally demanded 55 crowns, but they have already arrived at an agreement that they would ask for 42. But the problem of low reimbursement is not the only issue that needs to be urgently addressed, says Vaclav Smatlak.
"The demands of primary health care in the Czech Republic were satisfied only in the amount of 20 percent. Due to this, we as GPs are forced into strict regulations of drugs and some examinations such as X-rays, laboratory tests, etc. We need about 150 - 200 new GPs per year, but last year there were only six new GPs and this year there are 20 of them. We want to say that postponing a solution to this problem means that primary health care in the Czech Republic will collapse in five years."
The protest provoked a reaction from the Patients' Association whose chairman Lubomir Olejar says that GPs must not take their patients hostages. Tereza Kvetonova is the spokeswoman for the General Health Insurance Company (or the VZP) the largest of Czech health insurance of companies with 6.5 million clients. She says that there was no need for such a large-scale action.
Whether the protest was ahead of time or not, it has already borne results. VZP, the largest Czech health insurance provider, has agreed to meet GPs' demands. On Friday, other health insurance companies in the Czech Republic will announce if they will do the same.