Healthcare Minister Souckova sacked, president names Kubinyi in her stead

Jozef Kubinyi and Marie Souckova, photo: CTK

For many professionals angry over the state of affairs in the health sector Tuesday's decision by Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla to recall his health minister, Marie Souckova, was one that was long overdue. The prime minister had long defended Mrs Souckova, but, as Jan Velinger reports, finally concluded on Tuesday it would be up to someone else to push through critical healthcare reforms.

Jozef Kubinyi and Marie Souckova,  photo: CTK
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla on Tuesday said it was necessary to find a replacement for the current health minister given the complexity of reforms ahead. In a post aptly dubbed "the ejector seat" Mrs Souckova's stay just exceeded the average year and a half, leaving little impact in the end, given the monumental task at hand: getting a grip on a health sector reeling from billions of crowns in debt. Even so on Tuesday the prime minister refused to lay any blame at Mrs Souckova's door. He stressed that what was simply needed was someone who would bring a new impulse to the post - and he had one person in mind: Social Democrat MP Jozef Kubinyi, a member of the committee on social politics and health care. A day later Mr Kubinyi has indeed now been named the new health minister by the Czech president. This despite the president's reservations regarding the nominee's affiliations under the former communist regime. Presidential spokesman Petr Hajek:

"Mr Kubinyi was apparently a member of the communist party up until 1990. It's only natural the president should have reservations: why should there be softer criteria for a member of government than for example a constitutional judge?"

Still, those reservations were apparently not enough to prevent Mr Kubinyi's naming. As for Mrs Souckova? She appears confident she will still find a place within the health sector despite her ignoble departure:

Marie Souckova and Vladimir Spidla,  photo: CTK
"I am sure that I am going to be able to weigh several offers from representatives of various health care centres - in fact they've already been in touch."

As early as January Mrs Souckova put her name on the line if much-needed reforms weren't passed, and in the end it has to be said that never seemed likely to happen. Though the cabinet considered her draft reforms - which proposed larger state subsidies, reinforced state supervision of insurance companies, and a reduction in the number of hospitals - for many, including Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, her numbers never added up. Add to that growing public pressure against Mrs Souckova her departure came as no surprise. Now it will be up to her replacement to prove whether he is up to the task to complete what Mrs Souckova couldn't: comprehensive health care reforms.