Thousands of doctors to quit over salaries
The Czech doctors’ union reports that roughly a fourth of the country’s 16,000 doctors have pledged to resign their positions through the “Thank You, We’re Leaving” campaign, which demands a rise in the base salaries of hospital doctors. If indeed that number of doctors goes through with the protest, nearly 40% of hospitals in the Czech Republic will be affected. But the Ministry of Health is not flinching. Christian Falvey has the story.
The Health Minister Leoš Heger has yet to budge, however, and says - rather provocatively - that he expects most of the doctors to “come to their senses” and only several hundred to resign in the end. Indeed, at first sight the demands seem to fly in the face of the spirit of austerity with which the government has implemented wide-ranging cuts in every ministry and wage reductions for state employees. Dr. Martin Engel is the Chairman of the Czech Doctors’ Union.
The average salary for hospital doctors in the Czech Republic is around 50,000 crowns (an average that includes overtime and extra services); the campaign is seeking a base pay of 70,000, which would require that such reforms squeeze six billion out of the 290 billion crown health care system. Mr Heger has asked for patience, saying reforms require time, and he has asked the protesting physicians to concentrate on aiding those reforms, which he says will begin paying off for them in 2012.
Regions are currently working with the ministry to find solutions, but holding back their crisis scenarios for now, until the actual number of resigning doctors is certain. The ministry has said that in the worst-case scenario, emergency reserve funds would have to be used to keep hospitals in the big cities operational. Some hospitals in other areas however will likely be reduced to emergency care, and some may close altogether.