Doctors' protest ends in march through Prague
Healthcare has emerged as one of the major issues in this election campaign, not least because of the vocal protests of many Czech health workers against the recent reforms launched by Health Minister, David Rath. A "week of unrest" staged by healthcare professionals drew to a close on Friday with a demonstration and march through the streets of Prague.
Jakob Bucher, a representative of the General Practitioners' Association, worries about what that means for Czech patients.
"If you are out of this limit, you must pay all these bills yourself. It's only a mathematical operation. So the limit is some number. More, you pay, and nobody wants to know if it's necessary or not. So, this is the first big problem, I think."
But, Dr. David Marx, a pediatrician and faculty member at Charles University, sees the recent reforms as politically, rather than socially motivated.
"The health care policy needs to be prepared in a scientific way, not in a clearly political way, and the final goal of Dr. Rath to centralize health care provision will lead to a complete nationalization of the secondary health care system of hospitals, and we are afraid that the next steps after the elections if the Social Democrats would win would be the same tendency to centralize and to empower the system to the state even in primary health care."
Many of the protesters said that Friday's event represented the culmination of over a decade of dissatisfaction with consecutive governments' mismanagement of the healthcare sector, and was not intended as a political statement in spite of the fact that it was held one week before the election.
"This strike, this demonstration staged by the richest in society is, to a certain extent, an insult to the citizens of this country who have to live on an average salary or a lower-than-average salary, because just before an election, these are really the very richest people who are demonstrating on our streets and squares."
Whether or not the organizers of Friday's demonstration were politically motivated, this weekend's elections will decide the fate of Minister Rath's reforms.