In this edition of Mailbox: What's become of former World Champion Vera Cerna? Why do doctors object to a new rule on prescriptions? We talk to John Barnard, a listener from Canada. Listeners quoted: Frank Ernst, Alena Zajickova.

Frank Ernst from the UK has spent a few years in the Czech Republic and follows the Czech news on the Internet and his short-wave radio. He reacts to an article he read recently on the web:

"I was very disappointed to learn that your former World Champion Vera Cerna is getting no support from the government now that she is struggling to make ends meet!"

For those who have not heard of her, Vera Cerna won the gold medal in Ft. Worth, USA, on the balance beam in the 1979 gymnastics world championships. She had to give up the sport just a year later when she injured her spine, preparing for the Olympics. Ms Cerna now lives in her home town, the Moravian capital of Brno and is only forty years old. Last year, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour and had to be operated on, leaving half her body paralysed. Although rehabilitation exercises have improved her condition significantly - she still can't move her left hand, cannot see with her right eye and still has problems walking - she is on disability, meaning that she gets around the minimum wage and that with three children to feed!

So far, there has not been any reaction from the government and according to media reports, it is quite unlikely that it will react. The Brno city council claimed it was not aware of Ms Cerna's situation and said it would see what it could do but stressed that there was no system in place to help people like her, Czechs who had honoured their country and are now in difficult situations on their own.

Alena Zajickova is from Prague but currently abroad for a year. She listens to our station over the internet to keep up with developments at home. She asks:

"Why exactly are doctors against the new rule concerning prescriptions?"

Just to explain, the Health Ministry requires that all doctors keep a copy of prescriptions they write out to patients. The Coalition of Ambulatory Physicians is now asking the ministry to withdraw this regulation as doctors argue that they prescribe over ten thousand prescriptions a year (each) and would need extra furniture and soon an extra room just to store the copies. They also say that the time they spend on the prescriptions, is precious time taken away from their patients. With twice as many prescriptions, there will be additional expenses of some 20 million crowns a year, the coalition calculates. But the ministry stresses that this regulation is necessary as it keeps doctors from prescribing medicine that is being promoted by pharmaceutical companies and is more expensive.

John Barnard
It's time now to introduce John Barnard, a Radio Prague listener from Edmonton, Alberta, in Canada, who followed our relay through Miami on WRMI, before it was recently discontinued. He is a DXer and has been listening to short-wave for quite a while:

"I've been listening since 1977 and Radio Prague was actually one of my first QSL cards I received."

In those days, it must have been a different experience listening to Radio Prague than today with the fall of communism...

"Quite true. A lot of Eastern European stations had quite a lot of propaganda going for them. I didn't know what was going on in the world at the time but it was fun to listen to these stations. They seemed to have a lot to offer and I was curious enough to listen to different view points."

Are you active in a DX Club or write for any DX magazines?

"Yes I do. I did a column for the Canadian International DX Club. The column that I worked on is called Signals Unlimited and it concerns radio on the internet."

And do you use our website at all?

"I actually visit fairly frequently, probably two or three times a week. It's got quite a wealth of information and it's a very well done website."

You're in Prague now. Are you on holiday?

"Yes I am. I took two and a half weeks off for a vacation."

Is this your first visit to Prague?

"Yes. It's my first visit to continental Europe. I love Prague; it's a wonderfully historic city. The food and some of the pastries here have been quite wonderful."

I gather you have friends here and that you're going to be seeing some other media organisations?

"I have a friend who teaches English at a variety of organisations and I visited TV Nova, where she arranged a tour of the studios and their facilities. Some of the equipment is quite state of the art, the first of its kind in use in Europe and in the world."


This month's competition question is: "What Janacek opera will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of its world premiere?"

Our hint: it was premiered at the Czech National Theatre in Brno on January 21st, 1904.

Send your answers to the Radio Prague English Section, 120 99 Prague 2, the Czech Republic or by e-mail to They should get to us by February 29.