Expectant mothers scramble to register at hospitals as health crisis looms

As the government struggles to find a solution to a looming crisis in the health sector, hospitals around the country are bracing for the worst. Over 3,800 doctors have handed in their notice in protest against low wages and as of March, when the resignations take effect, many state hospitals and clinics may find themselves in big trouble – to the point of being unable to provide acute care. One of the worst affected areas is said to be the field of pre-and-post-natal care and expectant mothers are scrambling to register at hospitals where they will be sure to get medical attention. Radio Prague spoke to dr. Petr Velebil head of pre-natal care at Prague’s Podolí hospital – one of the country’s largest specialized centers for pre and post natal care- to find out just how badly they may be hit.

“Actually, evaluating the full impact (of the crisis) on our hospital is quite difficult at the moment. However the situation looks really very serious because you are getting these signals and news from other facilities across the Czech Republic. It seems to us that this has become a global problem and you really cannot expect a single facility, albeit one of the largest, to solve a global problem.”

So are you expecting an influx of unregistered mothers who would otherwise have gone to a clinic closer to home or are you directly threatened by a mass exodus of your own specialists?

“Actually the situation in our own institute is still very unclear and it is developing every day. At normal times we regularly take patients from other facilities – as much as we can – however we are now running at full capacity all the time. We are quite crowded because we are in high demand and patients come to us - both registered and unregistered - in large numbers. We can provide care to all our patients, but we will probably not be able to help other facilities who are understaffed to solve the global problem.”

Are you getting signals that they are expecting that?

Petr Velebil,  photo: CT24
“Actually, yes. We are getting signals from the regions that for instance out of eight obstetrical units only one or two will be able to provide some care.”

What would happen in an emergency if you were to turn away an expectant mother who was about to give birth?

“This is a very difficult question. Certainly urgent care is a top priority for any health care professional. This is something we will try to manage – to comply with the needs of emergency patients as much as we can. But, as I said, this is a global problem and one facility and one director of a facility cannot be expected to resolve it. We are a piece in a mosaic and that single piece is not independent.”

I understand that you are holding crisis negotiations now. For how long can you hope to sustain care in such an emergency? What are the outlooks?

“Basically, I believe that at crisis level we would be able to sustain care for just a few weeks at the most. As I said, one facility and its director cannot be held responsible, because they cannot solve this problem. That solution has to come from the top - from the Czech government and the Ministry of Health.”

Do you feel hard done by the government?

“So far we have heard many, many proclamations but we do not see too many constructive suggestions. At the moment all these proclamations are just making the situation worse. We would expect a constructive approach which would help reach a compromise –that is the only possible solution on a national level.”

Podolí hospital in Prague
If we look at the national level - do you feel that expectant mothers and mothers who will just have given birth roundabout March 1st –do you feel that their health could really be at risk?

“If there is no positive, constructive action at the top level health care could be impaired to such an extent that it could present a risk to patients’ health.”