Health minister prescribes "radical treatment" for Czechs
Are you overweight? Do you smoke? Do you neglect medical check ups? The average Czech would give you a "yes" answer to all of the above and the health minister now intends to change that. In an effort to curb the health sector's staggering debt, he is advocating a healthier lifestyle and more personal responsibility for one's health.
The minister is even determined to change the country's tobacco law -one of the most liberal in Europe - and he advocates a steep "health tax" on cigarettes.
All this doctors welcome. A more controversial part of the minister's cost-cutting measures are his immediate cutbacks in all spheres of the health sector. They are the steepest since 1990 and some hospitals say they are having to put off planned operations as a result and that the quality of health care is dropping. Both hospitals and GPs are having to economize on such things as bandages, medicaments and special care. In fact some doctors are so angry with the planned cuts for next year that they are boycotting meetings with the minister. Pharmacists are also unhappy. As a result of the cuts, a quarter of all pharmacies, particularly those in small towns and villages may have to close down. Many now claim that the minister's health plan for Czechs is so radical it may kill the patient before he's had a chance to recover.