Jobs fair puts spotlight on Czech doctors’ mass exodus threat

Photo: CTK

The Czech health sector is facing serious problems. Around a quarter of hospital doctors have given warning that they will leave to work abroad unless there are given significant wage increases. The Health Ministry says it cannot meet their demands. The crisis from this standoff is looming in the New Year, the deadline given by doctors. But many of them already appear to be preparing to leave.

The exodus of Czech doctors, dentists and nurses to work for more money abroad is nothing new, it has been going on for almost 20 years. But dissatisfaction among hospital doctors at least appears to have reached a peak from which for many of them there may be no return.

Around 3,600 of the country’s approximately 15,000 hospital doctors have signed a “Thanks, we’re leaving” declaration saying they will quit their jobs at the end of the year unless there are wage hikes of between 50 and 300 percent. In some areas near the German border around 40 percent of doctors have signed the petition.

They say doctors, especially young doctors, in the Czech Republic are woefully underpaid compared with conditions in Western Europe. But they say their demands are not aimed at getting pay parity with colleagues in the West, just the same sort of differential compared with the average wage.

Photo: CTK
But the coffers at the Health Ministry are bare, with warnings that the health service is facing a 10 billion crown deficit next year. Minister Leoš Heger says there is no way he can satisfy the doctors.

A jobs fair this weekend in Prague at which more than 30 German and Austrian hospitals flaunted their pay and conditions has put the spotlight on the problem. One of those who came to see what was on offer was a young radiologist with two years experience working at a small Czech hospital. He summed up the monthly pay difference.

“At this time in Germany I think the pay would be around 2,600 euros net. In the Czech Republic it is around 14,000 crowns, with overtime and extras around 18,000 to 19,000 crowns, 600-700 euros. So in Germany it is four or five times more.”

Minister Leoš Heger at the weekend was on the defensive. He said he does not expect the doctors’ end year exodus to be so dramatic and if it is there is still some flexibility in the Czech health system.

Leoš Heger
“There are many reserves in this sense. Hospitals will only have to offer acute care as a priority for those at risk or who cannot wait. Otherwise, waiting times will get longer. I don’t mean this cynically, but those doctors who remain will get more money but they will have to work more.”

The minister added that long delayed closures of smaller hospitals might have to take place in such circumstances. That probably does not look like a particularly appeal cure for the doctors or patients.