Health Minister Emmerova sacked as PM tries to "stabilise" health care system
Health Minister Milada Emmerova was sacked on Wednesday as the government struggled to defuse an ongoing crisis in the Czech health care system. Her removal comes a week after thousands of doctors held a one-day strike in protest at delays in payments from health insurance companies.
Her removal comes as a crisis in health care reaches a head. On Tuesday all six deputy health ministers offered their resignations in what they said was an attempt to ease the situation. A week earlier, thousands of doctors staged a one-day strike in protest in delays in payment from health insurance companies. They later demonstrated in front of the health ministry.
Under the Czech health care system, both private practitioners and doctors working in the state sector rely on funding from health insurance companies - primarily the country's largest state health insurer, VZP. They complain of having to wait up to two months for payment, and predict that next year the waiting period could grow longer under new rules introduced by the Health Ministry.
The minister's critics say she has failed to introduce proper reforms, choosing instead to maintain a rigid, centralized, socialist style system that is no longer tenable. Mrs Emmerova, a Social Democrat, swore that under her tenure no patient would pay a single crown for a visit to the doctor's. Many observers believe that is no longer possible.
What is certain, however, is that the country's beleaguered health system can expect no fundamental reform before June's general election. There is little any minister can do in less than nine months. Even less so when that minister will be appointed by a Social Democratic party which is edging ever closer to a largely unreformed Communist Party.